A First

Thursday marked an Air Force first; a female captain completed the three-month special tactics officer (STO) apprentice course, aka Combat Control School, and earned her scarlet beret. Unfortunately, SOFREP is not releasing the officer’s name due to operational security concerns. We can, however, note that her background is in cyber operations.

Combat control trainees cool off in the Gulf of Mexico during their physical training session. Candidates prepare for the demands of the remainder of their training while earning an air traffic control certification in 15 weeks. Image Credit: Kemberly Groue/Air Force

Not Without Controversy

Not surprisingly, to me anyway, was the fact that there has been a good deal of controversy over the past several months about whether or not the rigid rules and guidelines for such special operations training had been bent in favor of the candidate.

This was the second attempt of the captain to complete Combat Control School. The program is held at Pope Army Airfield (formerly Pope Air Force base) within spitting distance of Fort Bragg. The 90-day program incorporates military parachuting, land navigation, and assault zone reconnaissance skills.

As a candidate, the captain quit during a solo land navigation course. However, she was allowed to attempt the course a second time this year. Air Force Times has obtained and published instructor comments relating to the candidate; they reported, “On [April 12], you exhibited a failure to train by falling out of the land navigation formation ruck,” noting that she “failed to maintain an 18:30-minute-per-mile average pace.”