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Teamwork - the bedrock of Combat Control

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Todd Wivell
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Editor's Note: Combat Control Students are identified by their rank and first name only. This is part two of a 13 part series.

It has been one full week since the 21 trainees started their newest phase of training to become combat controllers. With one week down and 12 more to go at Pope's Combat Control School, the trainees have found out that this may be the most grueling and intense 13 weeks of their two years of training. It is a training program that is pushing them to their mental, physical and emotional limits each and every day.

"We're unloading a lot of new material and expectations on them that they need to absorb and process," said Senior Master Sgt. Sean Gleffe, Commandant for the CCS. "It is going to take a little time for them to get into a rhythm and put all these things together. We should be able to measure them on their continuing progress within a week and then on to the end."

As week two of training began, the trainees were introduced to what is known at Pit Physical Training, an intense PT program that is designed to motivate and train students in a controlled stressful environment.

The program is an intense session of maximum pull-ups, sit-ups, different styles of push-ups, flutter-kicks, dips, a four-mile run and various other strenuous activities. This particular PT session is conducted usually once a week and becomes increasingly challenging as the weeks progress.

"The trainees are given specific physical tasks conditions and standards to achieve," said Tech. Sgt. Ryan, a CCS instructor. "If they do not meet the TCS, they are immediately corrected. This creates focus and attention to detail otherwise not achievable under stressful conditions. Trainees become strong, physically and emotionally. It hardens them for the tasks and conditions they will need to endure over the course of their career."

As teamwork is a foundation to ensuring overall success at almost any feat attempted, it is the key to success at the CCS and for class 09-003.

"Teamwork is a given in this career field. It is the bedrock we are founded on," said Sergeant Ryan commenting on the teamwork used during the Pit PT. "Before, after and during a mission, it takes all of us working in unison to get the mission done. We have many individual outstanding performers, but without their peers' support literally nothing would get done. There are standards but you must look at the standard as only the minimum. The job we do requires adaptability, and if all a trainee can do is the standard, they will not have the capacity or reserve to adapt."

"This class has a sense of the meaning of teamwork, but right now they are getting themselves together and are still a little overwhelmed," said Sergeant Gleffe. "They are going to experience the true meaning of teamwork and realize it is not just an expression. They are going to be relying on the man to the left and right pretty heavily from this point on and realize they are also a critical part of that link."

As the morning progressed and the men of class 09-003 completed their morning Pit PT, they prepared for progress checks on their radio knowledge, something they have been learning about for the past week.

Each student spent numerous hours of classroom learning on multiple blocks of instruction before the actual radios were even introduced. They were taught the basics of radio waves, propagation and frequency theory before even touching a radio. Then they are given approximately 14 hours of hands on, practical application with the different radios before their actual progress check is given.

"The trainees accomplish a timed progress check on each of the three radios they learned this past week," said Tech. Sgt. Scott, another CCS instructor. "Each radio will have to be programmed to certain parameters and have to be configured correctly for the student to pass. If a trainee fails the progress check, he is given an additional four hours of help with academics and the practical portion and then retested to accomplish the objective.

"A combat controller with his radio is one of the most lethal weapons systems in the U.S. military. Giving these Airmen the tools to accomplish their job, whether it is combat or humanitarian, to the utmost of their ability is paramount to the success of any mission."

Sergeant Scott went on to say overall this class did extremely well on their progress checks. He emphasized it was the small details that usually made or broke the progress check, and it is the same attention to detail that he hoped all the trainees would carry on throughout this course and their careers as combat controllers.

One thing that may not be fully understood is the fact that most students who have reached the door of the CCS have already been in training for up to one year prior. They have already learned how to stay focused and definitely learned how to continue to stay motivated.

"At any one point in the training, they may have a career or life decision to make," said Sergeant Gleffe. "They are challenged physically, emotionally, academically and mentally throughout their journey and more so here at the CCS. Some decide this career field just isn't for them and others want to continue, but their bodies just can't keep up with the rigorous demands of the training. Those who keep the focus and remain highly motivated in every challenge will successfully earn his beret."

As week two commences, the 21 trainees prepare for another intense week of combat controller training. They can expect to doubt themselves at times; they can expect to make mistakes and learn as they progress; they can expect to learn to rely on the man on their left and right, but if they push through and exceed the standard most of all, they can expect to complete another week of training and get one step closer to their red beret.