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6th Special Operations Squadron [6th SOS]

The 6th Special Operations Squadron (6th SOS) was originally constituted as the 6th Fighter Squadron (Commando) on 22 September, 1944, as part of the 1st Air Commando Group flying P-47D Thunderbolts out of Asansol, Fenny, and Cox's Bazaar, India. In May 1945, the unit converted to the P-51 Mustang and returned home for deactivation in November 1945.

The unit was reconstituted at Hurlburt Field, Fla., 27 April, 1962, and assigned to the 1st Air Commando Group, flying the B/RB-26, U-10, AT-28, and by early 1963, the A-1E Skyraider (call sign HOBO). The unit's mission was to train in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare and demonstrate those tactics both within the United States and abroad. Squadron personnel served as advisors to Vietnamese Air Force personnel at Bien Hoa Air Base. During the same period, at Howard Air Force Base, Panama, they trained Central and South American airmen in COIN techniques. All aircraft except the AT-28 were reassigned to other special operations units in July, 1963 and many personnel moved away to form the cadres for those new units. The 6th Fighter Squadron at Hurlburt Field, and several detachments in Southeast Asia and Central America (using 6th Fighter Squadron resources) were assigned a combat aviation training and advisory mission. The "Waterpump" detachment at Udorn Air Base, Thailand, for instance, trained and advised Royal Thai and Royal Lao Air Force aircrews to fly and maintain AT-28 fighters.

In January 1966, the unit moved with the 1st Air Commando Wing to England Air Force Base, Louisiana, and continued the same type of operations as previously performed at Hurlburt Field. By December 1967, all the AT-28s had been transferred and the unit started receiving A-1G, H and J Skyraider aircraft. The unit deployed with the Skyraiders to Pleiku Air Base, Vietnam, in February 1968, and reassigned to the 14th Air Commando Wing. On 15 July 1968, the unit was reassigned to the 633rd Special Operations Wing and redesignated as the 6th Special Operations Squadron (6th SOS). The unit flew combat missions, including air support for ground forces, air cover for transports, day and night interdiction, search and rescue support, armed reconnaissance, and forward air control. The unit was inactivated on 15 November 1969.

The unit was reactivated 6 January 1970, at England AFB, Louisiana, with the mission of replacement training of USAF pilots in A-37B aircraft. The unit was redesignated as the 6th Special Operations Training Squadron on 31 August 1972. The unit was assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field on 31 July 1973, and, later, reassigned to the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing on 1 January 1974. The squadron was again inactivated on 15 September 1974.

The squadron had its rebirth twenty years later as a result of legislation reorganizing the United States Special Operations Forces. The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which created the U.S. Special Operations Command, also identified foreign internal defense (FID) as one of the nine principal missions of special operations forces. Subsequently, in 1990, the Commander-In-Chief, US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), validated and strongly supported the establishment of a dedicated Air Force Special Operations Command aviation-FID organization.

In the spring of 1991, a FID office was created in the Plans and Programs Directorate of Headquarters AFSOC, and an aviation-FID concept-of-operations study was published. Following a "proof-of-concept" deployment to Ecuador with the US Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in July 1992, CINCSOC ordered early expansion of the FID office and its redesignation in August, 1993, as Detachment 7, Special Operations Combat Operations Staff (DET 7 SOCOS). A series of tactical successes in Ecuador, El Salvador, Tunisia, and Jordan led to the expansion of this Detachment and further designation in April, 1994, as the 6th Special Operations Flight, realigned under the 16th Operations Group of the 16th Special Operations Wing. The unit was upgraded to squadron status on 1 October 1994, to reflect its growth in mission and personnel. The squadron received its first two aircraft (UH-1N Hueys) on 11 October 1996 and marked its first flight in more than twenty years on 20 December 1996. The squadron received its two Spanish-built turbo-powered, twin-engine transport aircraft on 24 October 1998.

The 6th SOS has grown from a twenty-person detachment to a squadron of 105 personnel (authorized) comprising six regionally oriented tactical advisory flights. These flights are currently operating with foreign aviation forces in four major overseas theaters and sixteen countries.

The mission of the 6th Special Operations Squadron (6th SOS) is to advise and train foreign aviation forces to employ and sustain their own assets and, when necessary, to integrate those assets into joint, multi-national operations. The wartime mission of the 6th Special Operations Squadron is to assess, train, advise, and assist foreign aviation forces in airpower employment, sustainment, and force integration in three interrelated mission areas: foreign internal defense (FID), unconventional warfare (UW), and coalition support (CS).

When conducting tactical training and advisory operations, 6th SOS personnel focus on facilitating the availability, reliability, safety, and interoperability of host-nation (HN) aviation resources supporting joint and combined operations. At the operational level, 6th SOS advisors help combatant commanders and civilian agencies plan and integrate foreign air operations into theater campaign plans, contingencies, and other joint and multi-national activities. This mission carries over into training and advising foreign aviation combat and combat support units in logistics sustainment, airbase defense, command and control, survival, and other functions supporting air operations.

As the Air Force's only combat aviation advisory organization, the 6th SOS can address airpower employment, sustainment, and force integration as a single, integrated advisory effort. The squadron's one hundred five authorized personnel represent thirty two Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) and a broad range of skills that include fixed and rotary-wing tactical flying, aircraft maintenance, command and control, communications, airbase defense, and personal survival.

The principal context for employing 6th SOS forces is foreign internal defense (FID). The training and advisory skills acquired in preparing for FID also enable 6th SOS to engage in coalition support. A principal mission objective is facilitating the availability, safety, and interoperability of participating foreign aviation resources supporting combined operations. The AFID role is to advise foreign aviation forces on the use of airpower to deal with the internal threats of subversion, lawlessness and insurgency. In this role, combat aviation advisors primarily focus on hands-on, adaptive training and advisory support geared to practical airpower applications.

Coalition support focuses on such tasks as integrating foreign aviation into the air campaign and the Air Tasking Order, promoting safety and interoperability, facilitating airspace deconfliction, and upgrading host-nation aviation capabilities.

The squadron executes its mission through theater-oriented Operational Aviation Detachments "A" and "B." (OAD-A/B). The thirteen-person OAD-A functions as the tactical training/advisory team. The OAD-B provides C3, logistics, administrative, and medical support to multiple OAD-A teams deployed in the field. Personnel assigned to the 6th SOS are all required to complete a demanding training and education curriculum intended to produce foreign language proficient, regionally-oriented, politically and culturally sensitive aviation experts. The curriculum also provides indoctrination in survival, risk management, and safety procedures.

6th SOS training and advisory capabilities include a variety of aviation roles and missions but primarily focus on fixed and rotary-wing airlift. Assistance in the operational arena includes airpower applications, tactical employment, and mission planning. Assistance in the aviation support arena includes aviation maintenance; supply; munitions; ground safety; life support; survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (S.E.R.E.); air base defense; command, control and communications (C3[k1][k2][k3]); and other functions supporting combat air operations. 6th SOS teams also assist CINCs and subordinate commands in operational-level planning and joint/combined force integration in fixed and rotary-wing operations. Assistance to the theater combatant commands includes assessments of foreign aviation capabilities, liaison with foreign aviation forces, and assistance in theater air campaign planning for combined operations. The squadron also performs safety and interoperability assessments of foreign aviation capabilities prior to initiating joint-combined operations and exercises. Once the foreign aviation unit has achieved satisfactory levels of proficiency and safety, the 6th SOS, in its coalition support role, can serve as a force multiplier by fielding advisory teams to draw foreign units into joint-combined operations.

The squadron's six tactical flights focus their training and expertise on four specific overseas theaters, but individuals often perform missions in more than one theater. In locations as diverse as El Salvador, Jordan, Ecuador, Korea, Peru, Indonesia, Eritrea, and the Philippines, 6th SOS advisory teams perfect the skills and personal aplomb needed to deal with US country team members, foreign military personnel, and host-government civil authorities. They also learn how to function under different civil, joint, and combined command and control structures while training themselves through various exercises or training others through counternarcotics or security assistance-funded mobile training teams.

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