Hollywood is interested in the secretive world of Air Force Special Operations Command, and apparently the command is interested right back, or at least in ensuring that the movies coming out of Tinsel Town portray special operators in the most accurate light.
Actor and comedian Thomas Middleditch, the star of the HBO comedy series “Silicon Valley,” but perhaps better known as the goofy pitchman in a series of new Verizon commercials, along with other actors, writers and producers descended on the air commando compound at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 10-12, for briefings, demonstrations and the opportunity to get their hands on special tactics operator kits.
Hurlburt, the major training location for airmen in the battlefield airmen and special tactics operator career fields, is home to the 1st Special Operations Wing, which flies AC-130 gunships and CV-22 Ospreys, among other aircraft.
In response to a query, AFSOC officials said the event wasn’t meant to fuel any current projects by the creative talent in attendance.
“No, none of the group had any projects currently featuring AFSOC or Special Operations,” said Maggie Nave, an AFSOC public affairs official. “In fact, the goal of these types of events is to educate and inform key audiences about the mission of the United States Air Force and AFSOC, and was not conducted in support of any specific production."
But don’t worry, AFSOC and big Air Force didn’t pay for the trip.
“I can tell you AFSOC did not pay anything out of pocket for the visit,” Capt. Amanda Farr, an AFSOC spokeswoman, told Air Force Times.
“As with all of our Industry Leader Tours, the Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office did not provide any of the attendees travel funds to include flights, hotels, meals, or ancillary costs,” officials from the Air Force public affairs offices in Los Angeles said. “All eight of the attendees chose to participate in the trip of their own accord and used their own funds to come to Hurlburt Field.”
Air Force photographs of the event show the celebs trying out Air Force special operators' weapons and gear, and producers and writers getting a briefing on the purpose and missions of AFSOC.
Middleditch tried on a Peltor tactical headset attached to a Harris AN/PRC-152 handheld radio.
The visit was part of ongoing Air Force outreach efforts and was coordinated by the service’s Los Angeles-Hollywood Public Affairs team, according to Farr. The Air Force regularly gives tours and briefings to civic leaders, industry leaders and educators.
The group spent about two and a half days touring Hurlburt Field, Farr said. While there, they received a base tour, mission briefings and interacted with airmen during training operations.
The group was able to spend time with the 1st Special Operations Wing, the 24th Special Operations Wing, and see a “Dynamics of International Terrorism” demonstration from the 492nd Special Operations Wing.
DIT is a basic course designed by the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School to educate students about terrorist organizations and the threats they pose to domestic and international bases.
“There were a number of briefings on AFSOC missions, overview of how AFSOC fits into the [U.S. Special Operations Command] team, support services, medical operations, equipment and aircraft,” Farr said. “Also included was a briefing on Master Sgt Chapman’s recent Medal of Honor decoration and how AFSOC supported the Thai Cave rescue effort.”
“Questions centered on understanding how AFSOC integrates into the larger SOF effort and what day-to-day life is like for an AFSOC operator, pilot, support personnel and family member,” she added.
The visit lined up so existing training operations were able to be observed without exacting any extra costs on the Air Force.
The civic leader flight, for example, was part of regular funds allocated for operations and maintenance. The DIT demo is programmed roughly eight times each fiscal year, and the Sept. 12 date — when it took place — was locked in well advance of the visit and happens regardless, according to AFSOC officials.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.