HomeNewsArticle Display

Calm in the chaos: Aspiring combat controllers work under pressure in tactics exercise

Combat Control School students assigned to the 352nd Battlefield Airman Training Squadron are ambushed at their drop-off point during a tactics field training exercise at Camp Mackall, N.C., Aug. 3, 2016. The FTX is a culmination of tactics learned in the first year of the CCT pipeline; which entails weapons handling, team leader procedures, patrol base operations, troop leading and small unit tactics under fire in one mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Combat Control School students assigned to the 352nd Battlefield Airman Training Squadron are ambushed at their drop-off point during a tactics field training exercise at Camp Mackall, N.C., Aug. 3, 2016. The FTX is a culmination of tactics learned in the first year of the combat control team pipeline, which entails weapons handling, team leader procedures, patrol base operations, troop leading and small unit tactics under fire in one mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

A 352nd Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron Combat Control School student radios to a simulated aircraft during a tactics field training exercise at Camp Mackall, N.C., Aug. 3, 2016. The 352nd BATS, or Combat Control School, is the home of a 13-week course that provides initial CCT qualifications. The training includes, small unit tactics, land navigation, communications, assault zones, physical training demolitions, fire support and field operations including parachuting. At the completion of this course, each graduate is awarded the three-skill level, scarlet beret and CCT flash. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

A Combat Control School student radios to a simulated aircraft during a tactics field training exercise at Camp Mackall, N.C., Aug. 3, 2016. The CCS, or 352nd Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron, is home to a 13-week course that provides initial combat control team qualifications. The training includes small unit tactics, land navigation, communications, assault zones, physical training demolitions, fire support and field operations, including parachuting. At the completion of this course, each graduate is awarded their 3-skill level, scarlet beret and CCT flash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

A 352nd Battlefield Airman Training Squadron Combat Control School student scans the woods as rear security for his unit during a tactics field training exercise at Camp Mackall, N.C., Aug. 3, 2016. The FTX is a culmination of tactics learned in the first year of the CCT pipeline; which entails weapons handling, team leader procedures, patrol base operations, troop leading and small unit tactics under fire in one mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

A Combat Control School student scans the woods as rear security for his unit during a tactics field training exercise at Camp Mackall, N.C., Aug. 3, 2016. The FTX is a culmination of tactics learned in the first year of the combat control team pipeline, which entails weapons handling, team leader procedures, patrol base operations, troop leading and small unit tactics under fire in one mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

CAMP MACKALL, N.C. (AFNS) -- Rumbling down a dirt road in a military cargo truck, a team of special operators quietly wait for any chaos to ensue.

The truck grinds to a halt in an intersection in the forest. A voice squawks over the radio, saying that a roadside bomb has rendered their truck useless. As the group offloads, gunshots ring out, smoke bombs bounce into the circle of trainees and tear gas leaves the Airmen choking. The team surges through the disorder to return fire and take cover in the tree line.

The ground combat team was not in battle; they were combat control students, enduring their tactics field training exercise Aug. 3 at the Combat Control School at Camp Mackall.

The FTX is a culmination of tactics learned in the first year of the combat control team pipeline, which entails weapons handling, team leader procedures, patrol base operations, troop leading and small unit tactics under fire in one mission.

"The Combat Control School curriculum is designed to overwhelm a combat control student's senses -- physically, mentally and emotionally," said Maj. Trent Joy, the commander of the 352nd Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron. "We train the students to be resilient, to have fortitude and the ability to function in high-stress environments to execute combat control missions around the globe."

The CCS, or 352nd BATS, is home to a 13-week course that provides CCT qualifications. The training includes physical training, small unit tactics, land navigation, communications, assault zones, demolitions, fire support and field operations, including parachuting. At the completion of this course, each graduate is awarded their 3-skill level, scarlet beret and CCT flash.

“(Each student learns) to be a committed, hard-working quiet professional and team player, fully initiated into special tactics and combat control missions,” said the operations superintendent for the schoolhouse.

The field training mission sounds simple enough: hike through the woods, evade capture, gather intelligence on a small village and setup a landing zone before extraction. But the instructors have their own plan: wreak havoc on the students.

The instructors have a plethora of career experience, including several combat deployments and extensive training in CCT. Acting as opposing forces -- riding on all-terrain vehicles with their MK249 light machine gun training weapons -- camouflaged in the terrain, they wait for the students to make a mistake. They provide this training up to six times a year.

"The training is as realistic as possible to show the students what they're up against in a combat environment," Joy said. "This means we're ambushing when they least expect it to disorient them and stress the students out. Lives and mission success often depends on a combat controller's ability to execute the mission in complete chaos."

Aspiring combat controllers hike up and down the rolling North Carolina hills, signaling quietly to each other to get down, keep their eyes open and do whatever they can to not get caught.

As darkness unfolds on the wooded landscape, students navigate the path with night-optics devices. A kilometer away, instructors shoot flares into the night sky to draw their pupils out into the open as they patrol a small training compound designed like an Afghanistan village. Donned in Afghan-native dress, they scour the brush and swamps looking for clues as to the team’s whereabouts.

Their efforts are wasted, as the students radio in their mission as complete and communicate their extraction rendezvous point. But like the real-world situations these students will encounter, the mission is never over until they’re home. Instructors track the students down to ambush them once more before they announce the end of the exercise.

With the tactics FTX over, the real work begins. Instructors evaluate each student’s performance and leadership characteristics. At the end of the 13 months, only a few will earn the scarlet-red beret. On average, less than 50 percent of the students who walk into CCS will walk away with the title combat controller.

Although earning the scarlet beret is a proud moment in a combat controller’s career, it is not the end of their rigorous training. After the Combat Control Schoolhouse, CCTs continue their pipeline to fine-tune operational skills at the Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida during a 12-month program for newly-assigned controllers, which provides mission-ready operators for the Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
25 tons of critical supplies airdropped to 56 Micronesian islands, impacting 20k+ people! Learn about the #Airmenhttps://t.co/vHexI85jOc
#DYK: @Norad_Northcom is responsible for tracking every flight over the U.S. and #Canada. They’re so serious about… https://t.co/OkzBo0t2hR
RT @DeptofDefense: Projecting lethality from the air! Fly along with the crew of this #AC130 gunship and see why they call these @USAirFor
The #AirForce & its mission partners successfully launched Space Test Program Satellite 5, or STPSat-5, into orbit… https://t.co/cDd9Mqlk67
The 24th #AirForce #TotalForce #Airmen are responsible for delivering full-spectrum, global cyberspace capabilities… https://t.co/8YsqClWENw
The #F35A is a fifth-generation fighter combining advanced aerodynamics, survivability in high-threat environments… https://t.co/W2nlfOWHGg
Competition builds camaraderie. @TeamMisawa #Airmen partnered with local Japanese community members to forge frien… https://t.co/2RvP9tXnN9
.@jointbasemdl takes the first step & starts construction of the two-bay hangar that will hold the new #KC46 Pegasu… https://t.co/cT0G8DlXPd
The 2018 hurricane season was an active one for @53rdWRS! @USAFReserve #HurricaneHunters flew more than 655 hours a… https://t.co/x1PKaI6fuJ
That 2:30 feeling got you down? #refuel with this video:#NKAWTG https://t.co/v527caBovi
It's time for #WIP! Take a look at what #Airmen are doing across the #USAF: https://t.co/eWobDEAVY3 https://t.co/yD9lZqAsib
RT @AusAirForce: TOUCHDOWN! Our F-35A Joint Strike Fighter jets A35-009 and A35-010 have arrived at their new home RAAF Base Williamtown. T…
RT @DeptofDefense: Meet the @USAirForce’s youngest pilot! Quinn Cogan poses in front of an #A10 fighter jet. (No, he didn’t fly it!) But he…
Let's get pumped for this new week like these two @AFSpecOpsCmd #Airmen who have a chance to compete for a spot in… https://t.co/1iVWUMiqrc
#ICYMI: U.S. #Airmen & #Soldiers worked to restore middle schools & high schools damaged during #SuperTyphoonYutu.… https://t.co/1YyYMzRNCO
#USAF SSgt Stephon Sharief, 909th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, works to refuel an #F15 during exercise Ste… https://t.co/FVySNhxPqz
.@AF_Academy senior Mariana Murphy performs a layout step out on the balance beam during the USAFA Blue Silver Meet… https://t.co/zwmPmBbFUf
We are saddened to hear of the passing of Wilfred Defour, a #TuskegeeAirman. We send thoughts of consolation to his… https://t.co/WDDUtUfHLg
RT @DeptofDefense: A view from the cockpit! Fly along with this @48FighterWing #F15 pilot as the @USAirForce 🇺🇸 and #UK’s @RoyalAirForce 🇬🇧…
#USAF medics from the 51st Medical Group joined the Center for the Sustainment of Trauma & Readiness Skills medical… https://t.co/bDYawsDW5h