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“Gas, gas gas”

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Todd Wivell
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
(Note: This is part eight of a 13-part series on the Combat Control School training program. Combat Control instructors and students are identified by their rank and first name only.) 

How many times throughout our career do we practice for chemical and biological attacks and how many times do we complain about the mask being too hot or tight, the suit being too heavy and just the overall process being a pain? 

Imagine now that you are out in the woods of Fort Bragg and you are training to become one of the Air Force's elite. You have been carrying your gas mask with you throughout the last eight weeks of training and all of the sudden you hear "gas, gas, gas," but this time it is not practice and gas is actually being used. 

This is what the 16 combat control trainees experienced during a portion of their tactics week of training at the Pope Combat Control School. 

"Everything we have done so far from introduction to field training, land navigation, communication and our first week of tactics class has led us to this point," said Airman 1st Class Logan, a CCS trainee. "We have been rehearsing and preparing for this block of training and it has been the most intense training to date." 

Along with the gas training, which the CCS instructors named "Field of Dreams," the trainees also went through a week of tactical movement training. 

"Our overall goal is to get the trainees to operate tactically as a team," said Mr. Pat, a civilian CCS instructor. "It sounds simple and easy but is much harder to achieve. 

"This team has been doing well overall. They are not executing some of the concepts they have been taught as they should be, but they are doing a little better than the average team that comes through training here." 

The trainees are taught reconnaissance, immediate action drills, tactical movements such as bounding, cover and concealment and how to mission plan.
"We expect to see quick bounds, constant fire, target opportunity, communication and acquiring good site pictures when these trainees are executing their tactical movements," said Tech. Sgt. Jack, a CCS instructor. "Every mission is different and the trainees have to learn how to use all these skills to their utmost advantage. 

"This portion of training really emphasizes the teamwork concept, it helps to instill that brotherhood and camaraderie that is shared by all combat controllers." 

Sergeant Jack went on to say the trainees are taught the basic techniques all soldiers use and these techniques come straight from that handbook. 

He emphasized how the trainees are taught to be flexible, as there never will be a perfect mission or scenario thrown at them. 

"They all had to learn how to adapt and overcome to any situation," said Sergeant Jack. "They build solid plans but they must have good back-up plans, use three-dimensional thinking and always be thinking outside of the box." 

As the trainees progressed throughout the tactical movement you could hear the instructors yell out reminders like, "Keep your head on a swivel," "Be aggressive," "Live another day" and "Keep thinking." All of these were reminders of exactly what the trainees needed to be doing and thinking about as they were bounding back to safe positions. 

"This is the most intense physical training I have ever done in my career," said Staff Sgt. Jacob, a CCS trainee with eight years of prior serve as a explosive ordinance device specialist. "This week has been the most challenging but it has really pulled us together as a team. 

As a Non Commissioned Officer, Sergeant Jacob went on to talk about some of his challenges throughout this course. 

"One of the hardest things for me as a NCO is seeing other trainees not make it through this course," said Sergeant Jacob. "We have been training together as a team over the last nine months, we have done all our physical training together and we have done all our classroom training together and to see someone not make it through really hurts a lot." 

"This training does not get any easier as the weeks go by," said Airman 1st Class Daniel, a CCS. "This time I have a better attitude, I get along well with the team and everything seems to fit right in. 

"I know what to expect but I am only allowed to help this class out here and there. I am definitely prepared mentally and try to prepare the rest of my class mentally as well." 

"All the training that has been completed to this point would be considered a crawl stage," said Sergeant Jack. "They are slowly learning to walk and our goal is to have them in the full walk/jog stage by the time they finish this course." 

As the 16 trainees complete another week of training, learning how to use their tactical movement and how the gas mask can really save their life, they all seemed to realize just how real this job can be and how this 13-week training is essential to their careers as combat controllers.