Combat controllers train 15 weeks at Keesler

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Michael Alvarez
  • 81st training Wing Public Affairs
It takes about 2 1/2 years to produce a combat controller. Combat controllers are ground troops who get embedded to special forces teams and are charged with providing close air support for special forces units. While CAS is a very important tool for the battle field, CCTs are also trained in infiltration, exfiltration, drop zones, resupply, helicopter landing zones and other various specialized skills.

Senior Master Sgt. Bradley Reilly is an operators course instructor in the 334th Training Squadron. It is his job to prepare Airmen physically and mentally for the demands of the combat controller pipeline while these same Airmen earn an air traffic control certification in just 15 weeks. During those 15 weeks, Reilly sees a physical and mental transformation in his trainees. CCTs are not attached to special forces units as a team. When a special forces unit leaves for a mission, they take a single CCT with them. For this reason, instructors like Reilly are so tough on their trainees. These CCTs have to be self sufficient and really know what they're doing. The most successful CCT operators are critical thinkers, responsible and mature.

Unfortunately, there is no ride along program where Airmen can get a taste of what being a CCT is like. Instead Reilly suggests that interested Airmen to research the career field and join for the right reasons.

"The biggest attritions from the course come from self elimination, not injuries," Reilly says. "The attrition rate of the combat controller course is about 50-65 percent."

While at Keesler, trainees improve their running, swimming and rucking while learning air traffic control.

A typical day for these Airmen starts at 4 a.m. when trainees wake up, square away their rooms and do their assigned details. From 4:45-5:30 a.m. they eat and prepare for morning physical training. PT starts at 6 a.m. and goes until 9 a.m. where trainees will do anything from rucking and running to calisthenics. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. is academic time and trainees go to ATC tech school to learn alongside other ATC trainees who are not combat controllers. From 6-6:45 p.m. is gym cleanup and after 7p.m. trainees study, hydrate and stretch to prepare for the next day's tasks.

Something combat controllers have in common is a drive and passion to be a special forces operator. Instructors are very passionate about their job and instill that passion in their trainees.

"I want to train with the best and lead Airmen," says 2nd Lt. Blaze Dunn, CCT trainee. "I stay motivated by knowing that I'm working with the best. It makes me want to push myself and always get better."