An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Navigating through another week of Combat Control School

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Todd Wivell
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: Some combat control instructors and all students are identified by their rank and first name only. This is part six of a 13-part series.

Imagine being stuck in the woods, not knowing where you are, trying to find your way out and not knowing a great deal about navigation. You are given the tools to succeed, blocks of training and instruction, maps, compasses and global positioning systems. Now imagine you are wearing a 90-pound ruck sack and it is night time. Finally imagine you must get to a predetermined location within an allotted amount of time and if you fail to do so, your career could be over.

This is what the 16 remaining trainees of Class 09-003 successfully completed during week six of their 13-week training at the Pope Combat Control School.

"The students spend one week in the classroom learning basic map reading skills, how to find points on a map, how to plan routes, how to use a GPS and finally how to properly use the compass," said Staff Sgt. Eric, a CCS instructor. "They are taken through a crawl, walk and run process in the field so they can properly apply what they have learned in this class."

The trainees spent most of the week in field conditions in the woods of Fort Bragg navigating a predetermined compass course. They started with learning the course with the instructors. The instructors walked them through the woods, showing them points on a map and how they find where they are actually located.

The next day and a portion of the following day, the trainees continued to walk and navigate the woods of Fort Bragg but this time without instructor assistance. During this portion they were given a GPS course in which they had their compasses taken away and were forced to use their GPS's only. Along with this they had to learn to navigate a night course and had to be picked up at first light.

"Only two out of five teams made it all the way through the night portion," said Sergeant Eric. "The class then moved on to a one-man practice course where they had to navigate by themselves for the first time. All of the students did pretty well with a small handful not completing the course in the allotted time.

"The following day was their practical test where they had to navigate from point-to-point and were allowed only one instructor assist. We had four failures of this first test. When a student fails we separate them from the rest of the team, and give them four hours of specialized individual assistance to get them up to speed and correct any misunderstandings about how to properly use the tools we provide them for navigating. The last day was their reevaluation. Three of the four students passed. One failed due to his inability to complete the course."

This trainee was the last of three removed from training during week six, bringing the number of trainees down to 16 for Class 09-003.

"The other two trainees encountered sports related injuries that restricted their ability to carry heavy loads for long distances on uneven terrain," said Senior Master Sgt. Sean Gleffe, Commandant for CCS. "It was my decision, based on medical evaluations, to pull them from this class in order to rehabilitate, get strong and start with Class 09-004 in June.

"The field portion of land navigation is very physically demanding and potentially would have 'broke' these two trainees for an undetermined amount of time. Being pulled from your team is hard for these young men to swallow, but in the big picture their dreams of earning the red beret are still alive."

Speaking of the teamwork concept, during the land navigation course the students had to work individually for the most part but in the end, it lead to a successful team accomplishment.

"Usually the students are required to perform mostly as a team," said James Morello, a CCS instructor who was special operations weather when he was on active duty. "This block of instruction was one of those times that they had to perform as individuals to succeed and help their current class and future combat controller teams to come.