Air Force special ops commander fired after domestic violence arrest

An Air Force special operations commander who oversaw training AC-130 gunship crews was relieved of command this week after being arrested for allegedly choking a woman and child.   

Air Force Lt. Col. Brent P. Byng was relieved as commander of the 19th Special Operations Squadron on Monday, according to Air Force Special Operations Command, or AFSOC, after being arrested on June 23 on domestic violence and related charges.

“Command is a privilege, not a right,” AFSOC said in a statement. “The Air Force has a strict zero-tolerance policy for illegal activity conducted by its members on or off base and holds commanders to the highest standards. In the interest of the unit, the member, and the Air Force, Lt Col Byng was relieved from command for cause.”

Byng was arrested by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office in Florida on June 23 for allegedly choking a woman and a child, according to an arrest report from the sheriff’s office that was provided to Task & Purpose.

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He accused his wife of cheating on him and demanded that she give him her phone, the report says. She walked into the bedroom, but he followed her and grabbed her neck until she couldn’t breathe.

When Byng let go of his wife, she gave the phone to one of her two children and told them both to run, the report says.

Byng allegedly used a pocket knife to threaten his children, telling them to give him the phone. The children ran out of their home “in fear for their lives” and Byng allegedly followed them with the knife.

He started choking one of the children on his front porch but he released the child when a friend pulled into the driveway. His wife then brought both children inside and told them to hide in the master bedroom while she scaled a backyard fence to call for help from a neighbor’s home.

Byng’s wife and children all told the sheriff’s office they felt he was trying to take the phone so that they could not call police, the report says.

Byng has been charged with felony counts of cruelty towards a child, obstructing justice, battery, and aggravated assault, according to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.

A member of Byng’s family reached by phone on Wednesday told Task & Purpose that he did not want to comment for this story.

Byng had led the squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida for little more than a month, according to AFSOC. His official biography was not immediately available and an interim commander has been appointed, officials said. The 19th SOS trains flight crews of the AC-130 and MC-130, the specialized gunship and tankers versions of the C-130 cargo plane flown by AFSOC.

 AFSOC said it is aware of Lt. Col. Byng’s arrest and Air Force officials are fully cooperating with the local authorities, adding that the incident is being investigated by local law enforcement.

“We have full confidence in our community partners to conduct a thorough and fair investigation into this incident and are cooperating fully with any requests they have,” AFSOC said.

UPDATE: 06/26/2024; this story was updated with information from an arrest report from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.

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Jeff Schogol

Senior Pentagon Reporter

Jeff Schogol is a senior staff writer for Task & Purpose. He reports on both the Defense Department as a whole as well as individual services, covering a variety of topics that include personnel, policy, military justice, deployments, and technology. His apartment in Alexandria, Va., has served as the Task & Purpose Pentagon bureau since the pandemic first struck in March 2020. The dwelling is now known as Forward Operating Base Schogol.

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