Last Thursday, an Air Force Combat Controller (CCT) died during an open water swim.

Airman First Class Keigan Baker was participating in a surface training swim as part of the Air Force Combat Dive Course. During the training event, Airman Baker went missing and was found unresponsive some hours later.

In a press statement, U.S. Air Force Colonel Matthew Allen, the commanding officer of the 24th Special Operations Wing (24th SOW) said that “this is [a] devastating loss to the entire Special Tactics community. We are very grateful for Keigan’s willingness to serve our nation and vow to honor his memory.”

Airman Baker was assigned to the Special Tactics Training Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing (24th SOW). The Air Force Combat Dive Course, arguably one of the toughest courses in the pipeline, is located at the Naval Support Activity Panama City, Florida, and it is run by the Special Tactics Training Squadron.

Airman First Class Keigan Baker. 

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Combat Controller provides Global Access and Precision Strike capabilities to commanders. Among numerous other skillsets, they are capable of surveying, establishing, and managing airstrips or airheads in permissive, semi-permissive, and non-permissive environments. Additionally, most Combat Controllers are qualified Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC), meaning that they can call close air support (CAS). It is for this skillset that they are often attached to other Special Operations teams.

“Keigan’s loss is felt across the entire training wing, where the safety of our trainees is our top priority,” said U.S. Air Force Colonel Parks Hughes, the commanding officer of the Special Warfare Training Wing (SWTW). “We are grateful to all the agencies that assisted with the search and recovery effort.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Keigan’s family, friends and teammates.”

The following agencies and units participated in the search for Airman Baker: the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center, U.S. Coast Guard Station Panama City, Bay County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Special Forces combat dive elements.

Airman Baker enlisted in 2018 and was the Honor Graduate of his basic training class. He then moved on to the Combat Control pipeline. He had received the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Air Force Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon, The Air Force Training Ribbon and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

The past few months have been tough on the Combat Controller community. Last November, Staff Sergeant Cole Condiff, a Combat Controller assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, fell from a C-130 aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico during a static-line parachute training exercise. After many weeks of search, the searching parties failed to locate his remains.