“In the relatively finite black SOF world, assaulters and snipers are a dime a dozen. Yes, these men are trained in multiple deadly skill sets and the dark arts of counterterrorism. But if you asked what tool of the trade would be the very last thing they would leave behind, you might be surprised at the answer. You would likely hear that it is not a tool that makes one nervous when it isn’t there, but rather a capability that is not organic to a troop of Delta operators or Navy SEALs…Just because you are the best of the best does not mean you are the best at everything. Any Delta operator can vouch for the capabilities of the Air Force combat controllers, and very rarely goes on a ‘hit’ without the men who wear the scarlet berets….Arguably the are the best-rounded and uniquely trained operators on the planet.

The initial training ‘pipeline’ for an AF Special Tactics  Squadron combat controller costs twice as much time and sweat as does the journey to become a Navy SEAL or Delta operator. Before their training is complete someone brainwashes these guys into thinking they can climb like Spiderman, swim like Tarzan and fly like Superman – and they have to prove they can do so if they plan to graduate. And that is just to get to a place where they can do the job for which they are really trained, calling those deadly air strikes. The life of a combat controller is split between working with Delta and the SEALs, with a little moonligting with the 75TH Ranger Regiment now and again.

They carry the motto that would be hard to look another operator in the face and say – if it weren’t true. First There.”

CCT: Combat Control Team

CCTs trace their history to the first Army Pathfinders, created by insistence of General Gavin of the 82ND Airborne Division after troopers dropped by night near Gela, Sicily, were scattered from miles by high winds and poor visual references. Pathfinders were envisioned as dropping in ahead of main airborne assault forces to emplace NAVAIDs, establishing visual and electronic aids to guide follow-on aircraft and troops (in those days these were the Eureka radar beacon and burning signals such as barrels of fuel-soaked sands). Perhaps most famously, pathfinders were deployed during Operation Overlord. Later in the European theater, Combat Control Teams utilized jeeps and mounted radios to communicate with following aircraft to coordinate resupply drops, CAS missions of the day and to provide aircraft control. CCTs of some form (whether called FACs other, defacto acronyms) have been involved in some combat, humanitarian, peacekeeping and other classified operations since the USAF became an autonomous branch of the military.

Combat Controllers in a Haiti Rescue Mission

Raw footage of Combat Controllers with the 21ST STS, Hurlburt Field looking for possible LZ locations in 2010 during Operation Unified Response, to bring in aid to the populace of Haiti after the 7.0 earthquake crippled that country and killed thousands.

More raw footage of  CCTs with 21ST STS, Hurlburt Field, look for LZ locations in 2010 during Operation Unified Response, to bring in aid to the populace of Haiti after the 7.0 earthquake crippled that country and killed thousands.

Air Force Combat Controllers the 'Under the radar' Special Operators

Read Next: Air Force Combat Controllers the 'Under the radar' Special Operators

Combat Controllers Information

There are several outstanding sites for information about the CCTs:

In particular, check out the Air Commando Association Library: lots of material and history on there.