The role of the Air Force Combat Controller (CCT) is not the easiest to define. They are not pararescuemen (PJs) but can perform some of the same functions. They are not Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs), but they perform some of those functions as well. The simplest way to put it would be that Air Force Combat Controllers control the skies before, during, and after battle.

Combat Controllers go behind the lines to establish airfields and assault zones. They operate as air traffic controllers (and are FAA certified) and command and control for the aircraft portion of a special operation. Their training is done alongside Air Force special operators and special operations forces from the other three branches. CCTs receive 83 weeks of training in order to earn the scarlet beret.

Combat Controller Training

Prep Course

CCT training starts the same way every Airman’s training begins with basic military training (BMT) at Joint Base Lackland. After eight weeks in BMT, they march across the street to begin the eight-week Special Warfare Preparatory course. This prep course is physically intensive. It focuses on fitness, nutrition, and water confidence. At the end of the eight weeks, the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST) is administered. This PT test determines whether the trainee has physically what it takes to be an operator. Fail this, and your time in special operations is over. Pass it and you march across the street to Assessment and Selection.

Air Force Combat Controller Assessment and Selection

Assessment and Selection (A&S) lasts four weeks and introduces trainees to the realities of what they volunteered to do. The first 2.5 weeks are spent “in the field.” Trainees live in tents and sleep on cots. Almost all this training is done outside. It focuses on fitness through swimming, running, rucking, and calisthenics.