Combat controllers set up air traffic control and perform close air support in remote locations. And it takes some time to groom them — more than 24 months from start to finish. Often they deploy into other military special ops teams as not only the JTAC - Joint Terminal Attack Controller, but as the expert in air traffic control, fire support, and air-ground communications with both fixed and rotary assets. CCT's are certified Air Traffic Controllers as well.
Trainees go from basic to advanced special operations skills. Physical, mental and emotional toughness are essential. In fact, the minimum standards just to get your foot into the door for training are the following
CCT PAST (Minimum Standards)
- 2 x 25 meter underwater (Pass/Fail, 3 min between each) with 10 min rest
- 500 meter swim (freestyle, breaststroke, sidestroke), max time 11 min 42 sec with 30 min rest
- 1.5 mile run, max time 10 min 10 sec with 10 min rest
- Pull ups in 1 min, 8 minimum reps with 3 min rest
- Sit ups in 2 min, 48 minimum reps with 3 min rest
- Push ups in 2 min, 48 minimum reps with 3 min rest
- 3 mile - 50 lb ruck march in under 45 minutes
It is not recommended to stop your progress at the minimum standards. You will need your fitness levels to be higher than these standards to be successful and survive the cut.
The Combat Controller Training Pipeline
After the Candidate Course there are two different professions with two different pipelines (but similar) to follow depending on if you want to be a PJ or CCT. Here is the PJ and CCT pipeline of training:
Basic Military Training – 8.5 weeks of training. CCT Recruits can request upon enlistment to join the CCT program if they qualify, so they will know if they get the opportunity to attend CCT training during the recruiting process IF they maintain standards.
Battlefield Airman Prep Course - All battlefield airmen candidates (PJ, CCT, SOWT, and TACP) attend an 8-week prep course. The goal of Prep is to rebuild the Airmen for a more challenging training program in the Air Force Special Operations Command.
CCT Selection is a two-week-long Combat Control Selection Course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The selection course focuses on sports physiology, nutrition, basic exercises, combat control history and fundamentals. After selection, the CCT recruit will attend the Combat Control Operator Course located at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. The CCT Operator course is 15.5 weeks long where the recruit will learn all the skills to specialize in air to ground communications, aircraft capabilities, navigation, and more. Finally, the 12-week Combat Control School is offered to make this warrior highly capable to perform air traffic control, air-ground communications, and air support in any environment in the world.
During the Advanced Skill Training, the additional military training the CCT endures makes the special operator. Learning to jump from planes, combat SCUBA dive, are just a few of the advanced military training received by these special operators will learn in the next 12-15 months.
US Army Airborne School - 3 weeks
US Army Combat Divers School - 4 weeks
US Navy Underwater Egress Training - 1 day
US Air Force Basic Survival School - 2.5 weeks
US Army Free-fall Parachutist School - 5 weeks
CCT's and the Team
The goal of training is to teach the skills needed to call in air strikes and more, but most importantly, it is about taking a group of men and forming a disciplined team. Throughout their careers, with less than 500 officers and enlisted men assigned to the specialty, it’s likely they’ll work together at some point. So teamwork must be second nature.
Once the CCTs have completed all the above courses, they get stationed at the various Special Tactics Squadrons around the world such as Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Hurlburt Field, Florida, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, Pope Field, North Carolina, Kadena Air Base, Japan, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom.
Training Is Never Done
When in the Air Force Special Operations, the CCT learns many ways special operations forces get to work. That includes parachuting — both static line and free fall, scuba diving, land navigation, vehicle and boat.
After they become static-line parachutists, sporting more than 100 pounds of gear on their backs when they hit the ground running, students jump into a more demanding and dangerous skill. The highlight of the phase for most students is military free-fall parachuting.
When they deploy, Combat Controllers are battlefield airmen and are responsible for the close coordination of airstrikes, aircraft traffic control of fixed wing, helicopter gunships, and unmanned drones flown by different branches of the military. CCTs are vital to ground personnel in Afghanistan after combat troops were scaled back in the 15-year war, supporting Afghan troops with airstrikes and aerial surveillance missions in order to fight back the Taliban and ISIS.
Article Courtesy of Airman's Magazine and Official Air Force CCT pages