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NASCAR visits Special Warfare at Pope Army Airfield

  • Published
  • By Nicholas J. De La Pena
  • Special Warfare Training Wing

NASCAR driver, Erik Jones, visits the 352nd Special Warfare Training Squadron to better understand how Special Warfare Airmen are trained and developed at Pope Army Airfield, September 29, 2021. The visit is part of the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service’s sponsorship of Richard Petty Motorsports with a presence on the NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, established early January.

“This is my first time coming around Special Warfare, I met some great men and women, here [352nd SWTS],” said Jones. “It’s cool to see the history of the program, where it started from, and how it was built into what it is today.”

The 352nd SWTS trains, mentors, and develops Special Tactics Officer (STO), Combat Control Team (CCT), and Special Reconnaissance (SR) students in foundational skills to prepare for global employment across the range of Special Warfare.

Jones toured the Chief Master Sgt. “Bull” Benini Heritage center and Museum, training facilities, and donned AFSPECWAR gear used by STOs, CCTs, and SR Airmen, to include weapons and protective vests used in combat operations.

"We’re proud to showcase the history and capabilities of the 352nd SWTS to Erik Jones,” said Maj. Nate Smith, 352nd SWTS commander. “In the SW training community we train Airmen to project Airpower for the USAF. We project our nation’s capability around the world, anytime, anyplace for global access, personnel recovery, precision strike, and humanitarian missions.”

Jones met with Human Performance Squadron strength coaches and took part in an operational-stress workout that incorporates functional fitness into SW Airmen’s fitness skillsets. Events like this combined workout and stress shoot test SW Airmen’s ability to move, shoot, and perform tactical skills in a simulated high-stress environment. It consisted of a warm-up, a five-exercise circuit followed by firing a M249 light machine gun loaded with paint-simulation rounds, and executing a simulation course of fire with an M4 and 9mm pistol for time.

“The coolest part was taking part in the physical training and shooting. Obviously the PT was tough, but just getting a small glimpse of what these guys go through in physical training, but also just getting to be part of it side-by-side with these guys was really cool,” said Jones.

Lastly, leaders, instructors, students, and Jones gathered at the fallen hero memorial outside of the squadron building to conduct memorial push-ups honoring the 11th anniversary of Senior Airman Mark Forrester’s death and other fallen SW Airmen. SrA Forester was killed in action while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Uruzgon Province, Afghanistan, September 29, 2010 and posthumously awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions.

“We do memorial pushups as a unit together sounding off, loud and proud, to honor our fallen and remember them,” said Smith. “Jones participated in the event where we told Mark Forester’s story by reading his medal citations and telling his story to the team and students so we can always remember his legacy and sacrifice for liberty, and our nation.”

Jones will have a Special Warfare inspired paint scheme at his next race in the Superspeedway held at Talladega, Alabama, Oct. 3, 2021.

“Number one, thank you for your service,” said Jones. “It’s brutal. It’s not something every person can do. I respect anybody that gets in the [SWTW] pipeline and completes the training and comes out the other side. That’s a huge honor and something that I don’t think anyone can take lightly, so thank you.”

Additionally, AFRS will deploy the Activate: Special Warfare, a virtual reality trailer, during the race to give users an opportunity to experience an intense firefight in a deployed location between Special Warfare operators and enemy combatants. The trailer features five identical user bays, each equipped with technology for the visitors to use, that assess the user’s composure, observation, reaction and effectiveness while playing the game.

Candidates interested in learning more about U.S. Air Force Special Warfare career opportunities, can go to: