This is part 2 of a series about USAF CCT. You can find part 1 here.

Getting out the door

A CCT can get out the door one of a couple of different ways. First, he can deploy on emergency humanitarian missions to act as a mobile, self-contained Air Traffic Control unit to direct incoming aircraft aid and operations, and assess and direct runway repairs in order to re-open the airfield. Here’s an article about the Sendai airport in Japan from 2011. Guys can also deploy as non-JTACs on assault zone rotations to hot spots around the world.

And then of course, the one everybody wants to hear about, is the JTAC role.

Once a CCT gets his JTAC rating, he is usually deemed fit to grab a spot on the next flight out to bad guy land. That could happen right away, or it could take another year of honing his skills and helping teach the new guys before a slot opens up. Either way, at this point, he’s done as much as he can do before facing actual combat. The straight-laced book training gives way more dynamic and off-the-cuff scenarios in a futile attempt to mirror the absolute chaos that is usually your first firefight.

Hopefully you’ll get some lead time on where you’re supposed to be going to study up on your new AO. But, since it’s the military, you’ll likely get put somewhere completely different after spending a month making contact with the guy you’re replacing and attempting to get a bunch of juicy information (like whether you need to pack a bunch of pre-workout and protein, or if you’ll be getting your protein via airdropped MREs). At this time, you’re also making sure your gear is good to go, cause, let’s face it, it never mattered as much as it does now. You’ll finally get supply to order that new rifle sling that doesn’t cut into your shoulder, snag a pair of gloves that aren’t ripped to shreds, and pack some socks besides UnderArmour no-shows. It’ll all show up to your unit one month after you’re in-country, and your stateside teammates will thank you for ordering it for them. You’ll start thinking of a million gear-related questions you never knew existed. And then you’ll get a little anxious because you’ve got a million questions and you’re running out of time.

Finally, after a couple weeks’ worth of packing way too much shit and absorbing some cultural sensitivity classes, you’ll wear your spiffy garrison multi-cams with your sweet green/blue/uniquely Air Force suede boots, kiss your wife or girlfriend or Tinder buddy buh-bye, and load up in a C-17 bound for one final night of freedom in some European hamlet. You’ll probably crush a “couple” dark German beers and/or overpay for some Spanish tapas, but knowing it’s probably your last taste of cold beer and real food for at least 6 months, it’s all worth it.

And then you wake up in the place you used to hear about in the news, but don’t anymore. You’re in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or somewhere that requires the use of your god-like close-air-support (CAS) skills to rid the earth of some real evil. Granted, you’ll be handcuffed by the ROEs that have been tightened a little extra with each passing fighting season. In fact, at this point, you’ve been through so many ROE briefings that you’re a little unsure you’ll ever get the opportunity to drop. But as you sniff the acrid, burning air, and pass through the doors of the STS team rooms that housed some of the fallen Controllers before you, you know you’re gonna drop.