Air Force Special Operations Command’s combat controllers are Battlefield Airmen assigned to special tactics squadrons. They are trained special operations forces and certified FAA air traffic controllers. The mission of a combat controller is to deploy, undetected, into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance and special reconnaissance in the joint arena.
Their motto, “First There,” reaffirms the combat controller’s commitment to undertaking the most dangerous missions behind enemy lines by leading the way for other forces to follow.
Combat controllers are among the most highly trained personnel in the U.S. military. They maintain air traffic control qualification skills throughout their careers; many qualify and maintain currency in joint terminal attack control procedures, in addition to other special operations skills.
Their 35-week training and unique mission skills earn them the right to wear the scarlet beret.
- Combat Control Orientation Course, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
This two-week orientation course focuses on sports physiology, nutrition, basic exercises, CCT history and fundamentals.
- Combat Control Operator Course, Keesler AFB, Miss.
This 15 ½ -week course teaches aircraft recognition and performance, air navigation aids, weather, airport traffic control, flight assistance service, communication procedures, conventional approach control, radar procedures and air traffic rules. This is the same course that all Air Force air traffic controllers attend and is the heart of a combat controller’s job.
- U.S. Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Ga.
This three-week course teaches basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop.
- U.S. Air Force Basic Survival School, Fairchild AFB, Wash.
This two-and-a-half-week course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas. Instruction includes principles, procedures, equipment and techniques, which enables individuals to survive, regardless of climatic conditions or unfriendly environments and return home.
- Combat Control School, Pope AFB, N.C.
This 13-week course provides final CCT qualifications. 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 the 3-skill level (journeymen), scarlet beret and CCT flash.
- Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Advanced Skills Training (AST) is a 11-to-12-month program for newly assigned combat controller operators. AST produces mission-ready operators for the Air Force and United States Special Operations Command. The AST schedule is broken down into three phases: formal training, core skills, and operational readiness. The course tests the trainee’s personal limits through demanding mental and physical training. Combat controllers also attend the following schools during AST:
- U.S. Army Military Free Fall Parachutist School, Fort Bragg, N.C., and Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz.
This course instructs trainees in free fall parachuting procedures. The five-week course provides wind tunnel training, in-air instruction focusing on student stability, aerial maneuvers, air sense, parachute opening procedures and parachute canopy control.
- U.S. Air Force Combat Divers School, Panama City, Fla.
Trainees become combat divers, learning to use scuba and closed circuit diving equipment to covertly infiltrate denied areas. The four-week course provides training to depths of 130 feet, stressing development of maximum underwater mobility under various operating conditions.