The 123rd Special Tactics Squadron is the only special operations unit in the Air
National Guard with both combat controllers and pararescue personnel. Mission sets
include clandestine deployment by land, sea and air to establish and control austere airfield
and assault-zone operations. Members also conduct environmental reconnaissance
and tactical weather forecasting; battlefield trauma care; and personnel and equipment
recovery operations, including casualty evacuation and combat search and rescue.
Combat Controllers are among the most highly trained personnel in the U.S. military.
As FAA-certified air traffic controllers, they deploy undetected into combat and hostile
environments to establish assault zones or airfields while simultaneously conducting air
traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign
internal defense, humanitarian assistance and special reconnaissance. Their motto,
“First There,” reaffirms the combat controller’s commitment to undertaking the most
dangerous missions behind enemy lines by leading the way for other forces to follow.
Pararescuemen are parachute-jump qualified trauma specialists who must maintain
Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic credentials throughout their careers. With
this medical and rescue expertise, PJs are able to perform life-saving missions in the
world’s most remote areas. A PJ’s primary function is personnel recovery specialist,
with emergency medical capabilities in humanitarian and combat environments. PJs
deploy in any available manner, to include air-land-sea tactics, into restricted environments
to authenticate, extract, treat, stabilize and evacuate injured personnel. Their
motto, “That Others May Live,” reaffirms the pararescueman’s commitment to saving
Special Reconaissance operators deploy deep behind enemy lines to collect and
exploit key information, and develop targets in the battlespace. Performing on the
cutting-edge of technology, SR surveil and prepare the battlespace to provide global
access, air, space and cyberspace superiority.
The 123rd Special Tactics Squadron’s parent organization is the Louisville-based 123rd
Airlift Wing, the main operational unit of the Kentucky Air National Guard. When
under federal control, the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron reports to the U.S. Air Force
Special Operations Command, which is headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
The squadron is continually engaged in military operations around the globe, from
hurricane-recovery efforts in the United States to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In just one three-year period, the unit’s Airmen were deployed overseas for
more than 4,600 days, conducting over 950 ground-combat missions and 10,000 hours
of Combat Search and Rescue operations credited with saving more than 50 personnel.
The unit’s combat controllers were among the first U.S. forces on the ground following
a devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, directing the first C-17 airdrops
of humanitarian aid and controlling a massive resupply effort that delivered 20,000
pounds of food, water and medicine. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, members of
the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron established and operated a helicopter landing zone
on a highway overpass in New Orleans, helping evacuate nearly 12,000 citizens.
In 2017, following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the unit deployed 18 personnel
to the Houston area to rescue 336 citizens stranded by flood waters; and 23 Airmen to
the Virgin Islands to provide air traffic control for 636 rescue aircraft, evacuating 1,286
U.S. Citizens from the Dutch island of St. Maarten.