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To Exceed the Standard

  • 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 one of a 13 part series.

"To Exceed the Standard" is the motto and goal of those who have the honor to wear the red beret of the combat controller. It is the way of the combat controller and it is the way the next 21 trainees hoped to learn as they began their 13-week training at the Pope Combat Control School Monday.

Over the next 13 weeks, the Carolina Flyer will take you through a day of training each week of Class 09-003. Through their eyes you will get a first-hand account of all their success, turmoil, daily routines and what it takes to succeed through Pope's portion of the path to become part of one of the Air Force's finest career fields.

Day one started much as it would for any of us. The 21 trainees headed to chow and then off to physical training. But unlike most of us, these trainees have to take chow to go as their schedule does not allow them time to sit down and enjoy their meal. And unlike most of us, they do not do a mild, at-your-own-pace PT program. Instead, they are given a rigorous assessment on their current physical levels.

First, they are required do a series of pull-ups, trying to max out as many as possible within a two-minute time period. From there they move straight into a two-minute portion of maximum sit-ups and then a two-minute period of maximum push-ups. Each PT exercise must be done the proper way, with each student being assigned an instructor to ensure it is. If it is not, it does not count.

Once they have completed this portion of their PT assessment, they then move on to a three-mile run, and as soon as the last man reaches the finish line they are off and preparing for a 1500-meter swim at the Combat Control School indoor pool.

Airman 1st Class Kyle, a pipeline student, who joined the Air Force strictly for the honor of being a combat controller, said he has been in training for 11 months to include training at bases in Texas, Mississippi, Washington and Georgia and was ready to get into it.

"Today's PT test has been good so far," said Airman Kyle. "I have met or exceeded my personal goals through the first four portions of the assessment. I did 20 pull-ups, 75 sit-ups, 78 push-ups and ran three miles in 19:55.

"I can't wait to actually start this 13-week course and finally get to learn my job. Everybody has stories about this course and I don't take what they say to heart. Instead I have come in here with the attitude of wanting to experience it myself. Another man's weakness could be my strength."

After the class completed their swim and headed off to get a quick bite of chow, the same chow they had carried over from the chow hall three hours earlier, the instructors sat down and entered the results from this day's assessment.

The top performer for the class was 1st Lt. Jeffrey, who completed the assessment with 22 pull-ups, 80 sit-ups, 94 push-ups, a run time of 17:20 and a swim time of 31:04.

The top performer for the pull-ups did 27 and the school record is 30, the top performer for the sit-ups did 103 and the school record is 116, the top performer for the push-ups did 94 and the school record is 141, the top performer for the run did it in 16:55 and the school record which was set by a combat controller from the last class is 15:45 and the top performer for the swim did it in 29:56 and the school record is 22:13.

"I would say the class is pretty strong overall," said Master Sgt. Charles, CCS Operations Superintendent. "The three-mile run numbers as a whole were pretty fast and the pull-up numbers were decent. The push-up numbers are not as strong as I would like to see, but they will get much better as the course progresses. The swim times were low, but they are always a little low during the initial evaluation. We will make them strong swimmers while they are here.

"The lieutenant turned in some strong numbers today. For the most part, the officers usually show up in the best shape. By the end of the class, most of the enlisted guys catch up in a majority of the events."

Sergeant Charles said it takes 100 percent motivation and dedication on a daily basis to complete this course and in doing so it will ensure each trainee never loses focus on the ultimate goal of earning the red beret and becoming a combat controller.

"I believe this class as a whole will succeed in meeting the rigorous challenges of this course," said Staff Sgt. Christopher, a CCS instructor. "As always, there is room for improvement on all physical fitness evaluations. Our motto here of exceeding the standard is the only standard allowed.

"As with most classes, the PT scores varied across the board. A few of the current students were able to meet the graduating criteria and in the past few classes the majority of students were able to meet these standards on day one. This tells us as instructors where we need to train these men and get them where they need to be."

"My final goal is to get that red beret," said Airman 1st Class Daniel. "I want to make a difference down range, to be there for my fellow Airman and to always exceed the standard."

As in any course there are foundations to ensuring overall success and the key to success at the CCS is teamwork.

"Teamwork is the core foundation of this course," said Sergeant Charles. "This is a very complex course with multiple blocks of training. We pile so much responsibility and tasking on the team, there would be no way to survive individually. Additionally, teamwork is the backbone of any special operations unit. If they are going to survive in combat, they have to know without a shadow of a doubt they can rely on the man to their left and right. They need to learn the value of teamwork while they are here, understand what 'team first' means and take that with them and always apply it in their combat control careers."

As the class is introduced to the instructors and given a chance to introduce themselves, one can tell that they have already started working on this teamwork concept. There is respect in the room as each person speaks and there is a mutual understanding on why each person is here to become a combat controller.

The PT assessment is over, the classes for day one have begun and the 13-week course is in full swing for the 21 trainees. They have come from all walks of life, some with past military experiences and some without, some are barely out of high school while others have completed college, some who exceed in physical fitness while others need assistance. All of that doesn't matter, because they have come here together to use teamwork to become the best combat controller the Air Force has to offer and, most importantly, complete the ultimate goal of exceeding the standard.