“Know any PJs?”
I’ve spent my fair share of time in the military jamming mags, packing chutes, picking up brass, lining up on the cables at Ft. Benning, and cleaning Zodiacs. But I don’t think I have ever spent as much time doing any of those things as I have trying to explain to a new group of teammates, classmates, friends, family, or girls at bars, WTF an Air Force Combat Controller is. You try your best, but in the end, people just basically want to know if you know any PJs. And I know there’s a bunch of my bros out there that know exactly what I mean. Well, fellow CCTs, breathe a sigh of relief. Bookmark this page for future reference, sit back, and drink a beer. I got you.
CCT stands for Combat Control Team. Yeah I know, why team? Aren’t you just one person? Yeah, a single CCT is just one person, but CCT originated from the WWII Army Pathfinders back in the day, and were actually, a team. Today, it’s hardly a team atmosphere as dudes are farmed out all over the world, mostly as individuals, all the time.
I’m not gonna get too far into the history of CCT, you can find that here (along with ways to get in touch with recruiters, train, prep, etc.). Since 9/11, Combat Controllers, or CCTs, have added to their innate abilities as FAA certified Air Traffic Controllers and Assault Zone operators, to include the skill that is the most sought after in combat: JTAC or Joint Terminal Attack Controller. During the GWOT, CCTs have been the premier SOF JTAC attachment to Navy SEALs, Army SF, the Marines (Force Recon, MARSOC), and various Tier 1 assets as well as OGAs.
In order to be able to attach to any team that needs them, Controllers have to first acquire all the same skill sets. So, before they do anything else, they go through some of the DOD’s best and most sought-after schools. Two years after completing Basic Training a CCT has been through SERE, Airborne, HALO, Air Traffic Control School, Combat Dive (open and closed circuit), as well as a myriad of CQB, Small Unit Tactics, trauma courses, etc. Basically, they are ready to attach to anyone that needs them. But the Special Tactics Squadrons (STS) aren’t ready to send their dudes out the door just yet. You can expect a CCT to spend 1-3 additional years of training to be a JTAC before they are ready to deploy. During this time, these guys travel all around the world to get time on a range perfecting their skill so they don’t mix up their Line 6 and 8.
After a bunch of grizzled combat vets have molded/abused their apprentice for those two years- wishing the entire time they were just downrange crushing skulls- they give him their blessing and the STS commander finds him a slot with a Green Beret, SEAL, or other team that’s downrange.
Continued in Pt. 2
Image courtesy of AirForce.com