JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
When an applicant living in the Land of the Rising Sun began his more than 6,000-mile journey to Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, March 1, 2022, it was the latest major step in his quest to become an Air Force Special Warfare Airman. The quest might not have been possible without SW recruiters who helped from afar through a podcast, virtually, in person and at a swimming pool on a Pacific island.
Tomokazu Lewis, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Japan, lived in Tokushima up until March 2022. His father, an American who teaches English in a Japanese school, told Lewis stories about relatives who had served in the U.S. military. From those stories, a sense of patriotism grew and while Lewis fared well academically in a technical-focused high school, he wanted to do something other than attending college.
“While reading up on various jobs in the Air Force, I came across a reference to pararescue and it instantly, almost unnaturally, clicked with me,” Lewis said. “I felt that it would be great to be on a team where the rest of the operators could focus on their duties, their jobs, without at least worrying about getting home, because they’d know I was there to help them if needed.”
The requirements to join the Air Force were the same for Lewis as for every enlistment applicant. He had to meet Air Force standards which required screening for suitability. He had to pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and a physical exam. For entry into a Special Warfare Open Enlistment contract, Lewis was required to pass a Special Warfare Initial Fitness Test, twice. The IFT features pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, a run and a swim test.
Lewis was undaunted. He said that he was an avid reader and that his hobbies included tennis and cliff diving so he was in good physical condition. For Lewis, the challenge was overcoming COVID-19, geographical and time zone hurdles. Lewis needed advice, so he turned to a podcast featuring Air Force Special Warfare.
“The One’s Ready podcast was a grass-roots effort from our squadron with the One’s Ready staff, who happen to be enlisted operators and combat support troops of various backgrounds,” said Lt. Col. Steven Cooper, 330th Recruiting Squadron commander, in San Antonio. The 330th RCS is responsible for all Air Force SW recruitment worldwide.
Cooper, a Special Tactics Officer by trade, was the guest speaker for the Feb. 27, 2021, One’s Ready podcast.
“Most things in life worth achieving require sacrifice—put the team needs ahead of your personal needs, show a little humility and do not quit,” Cooper said. Half a world away, Lewis and his father were watching.
“I discussed how we recruit for Special Warfare and Combat Support career fields, what applicants can expect, and what the training pipelines are like,” Cooper said. “Lewis’ father sent me a message in the comments section saying that his son was having a hard time testing and doing other things related to recruitment. So I gave him our Pacific region flight chief’s contact information.”
From Hawaii, an SW recruiter made contact with Lewis through a virtual meeting application.
“Lewis told me his goal is to make sure others return home to their families,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy May, an SW recruiter with the 330th RCS in Aiea, Hawaii. “He’s 19 but has the maturity level of a 30-year-old.”
May coached Lewis from afar on the work that he needed to do in order to prepare for all his upcoming tests. Lewis then traveled, often at his own expense, from island to island using automobiles, ferries, trains and airplane trips to complete all requirements on time. Finally, he was ready for the journey to San Antonio and BMT in March 2022.
“All of our applicants have to sacrifice to various degrees, but this is certainly one for the books,” Cooper said.
In Texas, Lewis was assigned to the 331st Training Squadron at JBSA-Lackland. On April 21, 2022, he completed seven and a half weeks of training with more than 760 men and women including other special warfare candidates.
“Military life is ideal for me,” Lewis said.
He became proficient with fundamental tasks and he was often seen teaching members of his unit how to do difficult tasks properly. It was a trait seasoned Airmen noticed.
“He wakes up every morning demanding excellence of himself,” said Tech. Sgt. Jaaron Alba, a Military Training Instructor for Flight 306, 331st Training Squadron. “He’s going to be a great mentor once he settles into the Air Force. He can accomplish whatever he sets his mind to.”
Lewis began an eight-week Special Warfare Candidate Course at JBSA-Lackland after BMT graduation.
For more information about Air Force Special Warfare visit https://www.airforce.com/careers/in-demand-careers/special-warfarehttps://www.airforce.com/careers/in-demand-careers/special-warfare.