21st Special Tactics Squadron

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21st Special Tactics Squadron
21st Special Tactics Squadron insignia.jpg
Active 1 July 1984 – 1 October 1993[1]
1 May 1996 – present[1]
Country  United States of America
Branch Seal of the US Air Force.svg United States Air Force
Type Special Operations Forces
Role Special Operations
Part of Shield of the United States Air Force Special Operations Command.svg Air Force Special Operations Command
24th Special Operations Wing insignia.jpg 24th Special Operations Wing
720th Special Tactics Group insignia.jpg 720th Special Tactics Group
Garrison/HQ Pope Field
Engagements Persian Gulf War
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Maj. Randy Harvey[2]

The 21st Special Tactics Squadron (21st STS) is one of the Special Tactics units of the United States Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). It is garrisoned at Pope Field, North Carolina.[3]

Special Tactics Squadrons are organized, trained and equipped specifically for various special operations missions facilitating air operations on the battlefield. They conduct combat search and rescue missions, collect intelligence, as well as call in close air support or airstrikes against enemy combatants and are often parterned with other U.S. special operations forces overseas.[3]


  • Designated as the 1721st Combat Control Squadron and activated on 1 July 1984
Redesignated 624th Combat Control Squadron on 1 June 1992.
Inactivated 1 October 1993.
  • Redesignated 21st Special Tactics Squadron on 1 May 1996 and activated.[1]



  • Pope Air Force Base, NC, 1 July 1984–1 October 1993
  • Pope Air Force Base, 1 May 1996–present (Pope AFB was renamed Pope Field on 1 March 2011)

Unit awards[edit]

Ribbon Award Dates Notes
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 July 1985 - 30 June 1987[1]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/Combat "V" Device 20 December 1989 - 9 January 1990[1]
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 August 1995 - 31 July 1997[1]
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 August 1997 - 31 July 1999[1]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/Combat "V" Device 1 September 2001 - 31 August 2003[1]
Air Force Meritorious Unit ribbon.svg Air Force Meritorious Unit Award 1 July 2006 - 31 May 2008[1]

Notable members[edit]

Rhyner on patrol with an Army Special Forces team in Afghanistan.
  • Senior Airman Zachary Rhyner, a Combat Controller, was the first living recipient of the Air Force Cross in the Global War on Terror. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions during the Battle of Shok Valley on 6 April 2008 in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.[4] According to the citation, during the battle he directed Close air support and Airstrikes totalling 4,570 cannon rounds, nine Hellfire missiles, 162 rockets, a dozen 500-pound bombs and one 2,000-pound bomb.[5] As a result of the same battle ten U.S. Army soldiers, nine Special Forces and one Combat Cameraman, received the Silver Star.[6]
  • Senior Airman Dustin Temple, a Combat Controller, received the Air Force Cross for his actions during a 48-hour battle September 27–29, 2014 against Taliban forces in the Kajaki district of Helmand province. He was attached to U.S. Army Special Forces team from the 7th Special Forces Group with two other 21st STS members and accompanied by Afghan commandos. Temple called in dozens of airstrikes from various aircraft, among them, F-16s, AH-1s, AC-130s and an MQ-1. Over the course of the battle he controlled 28 helicopters and 20 fixed wing aircraft in a total of 26 engagements. After 45 hours of fighting a resupply helicopter dropped critically needed ammunition to the U.S. and Afghan forces. Temple and two other teammates braved enemy fire across open terrain multiple times to recover the ammunition. The Army team-leader Captain Evan Lacenski carried a critically wounded Green Beret over 300 meters in open terrain to the MEDEVAC helicopter. He was credited with saving 80 lives as a result of his actions. Along with Temple receiving the Air Force Cross, the other two STS members received the Silver Star for their actions during the battle.[7][8][9]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dollman, David (18 October 2016). "21 Special Tactics Squadron (AFSOC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  2. ^ Barnes, Marc. "21st STS welcomes Harvey as new commander". 43d Air Mobility Operations Group. Retrieved 18 August 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "720th Special Tactics Group". Air Force Special Operations Command. 17 August 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Valor awards for Zachary J. Rhyner". Military Times Hall of Valor. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  5. ^ Lyle, Amaani (11 March 2009). "Combat controller receives Air Force Cross, Purple Heart". Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Office. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Cavallaro, Gina (15 December 2008). "Valor of combat cameraman earns him Silver Star". Army Times. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "Valor awards for Dustin H. Temple". Military Times Hall of Valor. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  8. ^ Lamothe, Dan (5 May 2015). "These U.S. airmen refused to be taken hostage in Afghanistan. Now they’ll get valor awards.". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  9. ^ Everstine, Brian (11 May 2015). "The heroics behind combat controller's Air Force Cross, Silver Stars". Air Force Times. Retrieved 24 September 2017.