SEPTEMBER 27, 2021 – U.S. Air Force Special Tactics was recently showcased at the Telluride Film Festival Sept. 2-5 and the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 9-18 during the premiere of National Geographic Documentary Films’, “The Rescue”, detailing the stories from the Tham Luang Cave Rescue in June-July 2018 directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin.
Featured in the new documentary, are Special Tactics Officer Capt. Mitch Torrel and Pararescueman Senior Master Sgt. Derek Anderson, who were both stationed at the 321st Special Tactics Squadron based at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan at the time of the rescue.
Torrel attended the Telluride Film Festival premiere’s question and answer discussions, which gave him a chance to speak to the Special Tactics unit’s involvement as well as reunite with other members of the rescue including British cave diver Rick Stanton and Thanet Natisri, a volunteer and groundwater expert on the rescue.
“It was great getting to see Thanet and Rick again, you form a bond with those involved in the rescue and it’s awesome to get to relive such an amazing experience,” said Torrel. “We all really enjoyed getting to see the audience’s response to the film. It’s rewarding to see the emotion that it draws.”
The documentary, which premieres in theaters Oct. 8, portrays the rescue through the perspectives of the British divers, while emphasizing the multinational collaboration that occurred, which included the assistance from Special Tactics Airmen in the extensive planning and logistics for the operation.
“[During the rescue] we immediately built a firm rapport with the Air Force members because of a common language and outlook,” said Stanton. “From this, they were also to become our greatest advocates and helped put forward our ideas and plans. It was great to reunite with Mitch as he played a pivotal role on the ground and I was in daily discussions with him during the event, so it was perfect to hang out with him in more relaxed surroundings. I believe we have created individual friendships from this event that will last the test of time and distance.”
Both Stanton and Torrel hope viewers take away the messages of perseverance and teamwork from the documentary, but for fellow Airmen, Torrel emphasized how ultimately Air Force Special Operations Command’s culture of readiness is what came into play.
“This experience taught me that opportunity can present itself in many ways and it’s important to be ready when it does,” said Torrel. “The Special Tactics pipeline we went through did a great job teaching us to manage stress and chaos and that was integral in this rescue. It’s important to take training seriously and understand that you’re building skills and habits to carry with you throughout your career.”
Special Tactics is Air Force Special Operations Command’s tactical air ground integration force and part of the Air Force Special Warfare enterprise, trained to execute global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations across the spectrum of conflict and crisis. Air Force Special Tactics is one of the most highly decorated communities in the Air Force since the Vietnam War with one Medal of Honor, 13 Air Force Crosses and over 50 Silver Star medals.
For any questions regarding Special Tactics Airmen, please contact 24 SOW/PA, at 24SOW.PAO@us.af.mil or by phone at 850-884-3902.
Story by 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo
24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs