More than 90 Airmen stood next to Soldiers when the first “bluesuiter” graduated from the U.S. Army Intelligence Center’s interrogator school at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
The Airmen -- with youth ministers and Scout leaders in their midst -- graduated Nov. 10. The Airmen volunteered after the Army asked the Air Force to help it meet its continuing need for qualified interrogators.
“[I volunteered for this]because I wanted to go out, talk to the bad guys and really make an impact by getting information and details needed to fight the global war on terrorism,” said Will, from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
The graduation won’t be the last Airmen will attend at the school. The Air Force will recruit more volunteers for the course next year. The Air Force Personnel Center and the Air and Space Expeditionary Center will release information on how to volunteer to military personnel flights and deployment managers.
Training with the Army was a new experience for most of the Airmen. Though they learned many lessons in the classroom setting, they learned others by strapping on heavy equipment and setting out into the desert.
Training with Soldiers has “definitely been eye-opening,” said Jeffrey, from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “It was different than I expected, and not in a negative way.”
He said the physical standards are not what most Airmen would expect.
“We went on long marches through the mountains -- fully armed -- as part of our field training,” he said. “But [all the Airmen]adapted well to it.”
Fitting into a different military culture provided a common ground for the Airmen to branch out and establish relationships with their Army brethren. It was a process made easier by the support they received, said the commander of the 314th Training Squadron at Fort Huachuca. He was Airmen’s commander during training.
“There is a difference in culture being an Air Force unit on an Army post -- as to be expected,” he said. “But it’s been a very good experience. I’ve been very pleased with the support we’ve gotten from the Army -- from field training to providing equipment.”
The commander said the Army is helpful and enthusiastic about having Airmen becoming a part of the team.
The Airmen interrogators are looking forward to their upcoming deployments, even though they will extend past the Air Forces “usual” four-month rotation.
However, it’s a job they are anxious to do, said Neil, from Andrews AFB, Md.
“When you get right down to it, it’s the person-to-person contact that yields the most information in the field," he said. "What we get from interrogating can’t be gained from satellites.”
The need for interrogators will continue. And Airmen in all career fields are eligible to attend the course.
“We look for seasoned Airmen -- senior airman and up -- who are good analytical thinkers and very involved with what they do,” the squadron commander said.
He said the first graduates are some of the best out there, and that they’ve already proven themselves as joint team players.
“The Army asked for Air Force support, so we’re certainly providing that,” he said. “The focus was integrating the Air Force with the Army as a coordinated team, which we were very successful in doing.”
Editor’s note: Due to the sensitivity of the interrogators’ mission, rank and last names are not used.