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Controller - Air Force Special Operations Command
USAF Combat Controllers (CCT)
The Air Force has a little
known group of elite airmen known as combat controllers. These
battlefield airmen, who are also certified FAA air traffic
controllers, play a vital role in current operations taking place in
What Does a Combat Controller Do? As a service member under
the Air Force Special Operations Command, a combat controller must
be ready for anything. This means being capable of operating in
hostile environments, directing air traffic and relaying battle
relevant information to pilots and military leaders.
16th Special Operations Wing — Hurlburt Field, Fla. (MC-130E/H,
AC-130H/U, MH-53J, MC-130P, MH-60G)
352nd Special Operations Group — RAF Mildenhall, England (MH-53J,
353rd Special Operations Group — Kadena AB, Japan (MC-130H, MC-130P;
MH-53J’s are located at Osan AB, South Korea)
720th Special Tactics Group — Hurlburt Field, Fla.
18th Flight Test Squadron — Hurlburt Field, Fla.
USAF Special Operations School — Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Air Force does not give just anyone a chance to try out to be a
combat controller. There are requirements that must be met before a
recruit even gets a chance to see the first stage of training. The
requirements are as follows:
-Eligible for a Secret security clearance.
-Must join the Air Force before turning 28. If there is prior
military service, it can be subtracted from the current age in order
to achieve a result less than 28. For example, a 31 year old with 4
years of service is good to go because 31-4=27.
-Must have normal color vision and at least 20/70 vision in both
eyes, correctable to 20/20.
-In addition to the standard military physical, must pass a Class
III Flight Physical.
-Minimum height: 4'10", maximum height: 6'8".
-No more than 250 pounds (the max weight for jump school).
-Must be able to pass a Physical Abilities and Stamina Test
consisting of a swim, run and variety of calisthenics, to ensure
sufficient physical preparation for the Combat Control training
to Combat Controller
Once the prospective recruit has qualified and earned a contract,
the training really begins.
The process begins with a 10-day Combat Control Screening Course at
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. This course focuses on physical
fitness and is used to 'weed out' any recruits who may not be
suitable for further training.
After successful completion of the screening course, the trainees
advance to the 16-week Combat Control Operator Course (official
website) at Keesler Air
Force Base, Mississippi. Here the trainee acquires a large volume of
information such as how to recognize aircraft, air traffic rules,
communication skills and radar skills.
The next stop is U.S. Army Airborne School for two weeks of static
line jump training. Then it is on to Fairchild Air Force Base,
Washington, for 17 days of survival school. As the name implies,
this school teaches the airmen the basic skills needed to survive in
a remote and harsh environment.
The final phase of training is the 13-week Combat Control School at
Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina. This is where skills crucial to
operating in a war zone are really developed. Such skills include
land navigation, small unit tactics and field operations.
As a combat controller, the training never really stops. As soon as
the title of combat controller is earned, it is on to more advanced
training. This takes place over the course of a year while assigned
to Hurlburt Field, Florida. The Special Tactics Advanced Skills
Training is broken down into three phases.
During the five-month Formal Training Phase, combat controllers
attend Air Force Combat Diver Course and Army Military Free Fall
Course. These skills greatly expand the capabilities of the combat
controllers, allowing them to be inserted from high altitudes by
parachute, or by silent amphibious infiltration with diving
The three-month Core Phase allows the combat controllers to hone in
their skills in communications, air traffic control and fire support
with helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.
The final phase of the Special Tactics Training is the three-month
Operational Readiness Training Phase. This is where the combat
controller learns all the combat skills needed for future assignment
to a deployable unit. This phase includes using tactical vehicles,
conducting reconnaissance and learning skills needed to participate
in a variety of combat operations.
After all of this training, the combat controller is ready to serve
as a valuable battlefield asset. Due to a variety of acquired
skills, combat controllers can operate with any deployed branch of
the service. They can be found in hostile areas of
directing air traffic and fire support, while participating in
direct action, reconnaissance and counter terrorism missions! They
have saved the lives of many U.S. and coalition service members by
directing fire support to eliminate enemy combatants. At times they
have done this while under fire themselves! The skills of U.S. Air
Force Combat Controllers have been, and still are truly battle
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