Lt. Col. Koaalii C. Bailey is a United States Air Force Combat Rescue Officer currently serving as the Commander at the 308th Rescue Squadron, a position he has held since July 2022. His job is literally to Command and lead warriors to save lives when called upon.
“Being in command means I have an opportunity to serve more people. My job is to lead, organize, train, and equip, Pararescue Warriors to be their best when things couldn’t get worse for a service member in need Rescue”
Clearly, the husband and father of three must stay ready and in top shape to perform his job to the best of his ability, which calls for him to be “Ready to Fight Tonight”. Fortunately for him, that is something he has cultivated into a habit and lifestyle.
“If you’re going to call yourself a warrior– fitness is not optional,” said the former college football player. “Demanding your absolute best of yourself will make the difference when chaos and uncertainty surround you in combat. As Aristotle said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence is not an act but a habit.’”
There was a good chance that Bailey would find his way into service eventually because it runs in his blood of his forefathers. He shared that he had men in his family service in our nation’s conflicts going back to the Civil War.
“It’s definitely something that is valued and appreciated in my Tribe.” His name Koaalii literally translates in the Hawaiian language to Royal Soldier. In some way shape or form Koa was going to serve, protect, fight, and rescue others.
Lt. Col. Koaalii C. Bailey
Upon college graduation, he was looking for a new challenge and he found it in Special Operations of the military. There was a pararescue team in his home state of Alaska the legendary Rescue Team 212 Rescue Squadron, which is what led him down the path he has been on since. In Alaska he and his teammates were always ready to leave in a moment’s notice to rescue both military pilots and Alaskan outdoor enthusiast that found the ragged edge of where life and death can depend directly on Pararescuemen being ready and fit to respond.
“I like to think I would stay in shape, even if I wasn’t in the military, but the cause of Freedom and Love for country adds an intensity to my workouts that might not be there to the same degree if I didn’t know that I had teammates depending on me being ready.”
This passion for excellence has been beneficial because he’s been in challenging, horrible combat situations during his multiple combat deployments where he has played a critical role in saving American and Partner Nation lives in harm’s way who were all experiencing their most painful, frightening, scary day of their lives. In Bailey’s eyes, fitness is about more than lifting weights and running. “When you can do something through your physical preparation or mental capacity that resulted in saving a human life it is an amazing feeling”. In every sense of the word, military service members are fighters and fighting (hand to hand) is the most visceral part of war. Bailey devotes a lot of
focus and commitment to combatives, he believes the facing the fear of being knocked out or choked out elicits a cathartic experience that is critical in molding a Warrior Ethos. Fight, flight, or freeze can be a conscious Response and Choice as humans; if we take time to develop the skills required to act not just be acted upon. To accomplish his combative based training session objectives with his team he incorporates problem solving while under stress scenarios, anaerobic exhaustion, and a eliminate that directly taps into a airmen’s desire to never give up Resiliency.
“The goal is time efficient, cost effective, sustainable training, that helps every teammate become a stronger warrior and better decision maker.”
Bailey leads by both example and instruction. That’s why he’s been striving to create for every airman in his squadron, Special Operator or Support Airmen to have a deep connection with the rescue mission and on a weekly basis. His strategy to do all the above is what he calls “Dilemma Focused Warfighting,” or DFW for short. Bailey described it as dynamic problem solving while facing stress.
“Technology is not the answer to everything in the future fight—yes critically important but if you’re going to call yourself a warfighter you should probably know how to fight and protect yourself and your family.”
Bailey works with Pararescuemen, who are warfighters in every sense of the word. Their skill set is world-class. He also works with many other people in supporting roles while they are on missions. The chances of them engaging with a enemy is real. The goal is to have a spectrum of options to protect and defend freedom and love. Combat and hand to hand skills are just an option we do not want to neglect.
“A human based weapon system is what It could come down to.”
Lt. Col. Koaalii C. Bailey
For those reasons and more, Bailey’s DFW system is something he’s developing and building on so the people he leads can protect themselves and each other by solving problems under those stressful conditions. He cited the art of JIU Jitsu fighting as a key component in helping teammates understand how to effectively and efficiently gain micro advantageous over an enemy until you can essentially take their will to resist or fight back resulting in them tapping (quitting), napping (getting choked out, or snapping (breaking a bone). Any move or strategy that can exploit a weakness of that opponent to make your situation better and theirs worse—It becomes a human based chess match that in a very real way ends in checkmate. Being fit and prepared to fight can also help improve self-confidence because the warfighter knows they did all they could to be ready.
“That concept of fitness in relation to combat and using it on a regular basis is what I am so passionate about, not just in my military career, but in general.”
Bailey hopes that the work he’s done and continues to do will influence younger Americans to consider the Air Force in their futures. Aside from being able to serve their country. Bailey feels they can benefit themselves in many ways.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to freedom and love. If you have the desire to preserve freedom and have a love for your fellow Americans, having those concept means serving in the Air Force is an absolute option for you, whether you want to serve a full career or do a tour. It’s something that you can look back on and value the experience. Contributing to something greater than yourself that hopefully helps you become a more capable and resilient human is a win/win situation. I hope anyone who chooses to serve will experience that.”