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And Then There Were 19

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Todd Wivell
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
(Note: This is part three of a 13-part series on the Combat Control School training program.)

Week three has started and the original 21 trainees have been reduced down to 19 as Class 09-003 continues on their 13-week block of instruction at the Combat Controller School at Pope. As the weeks progress the trainees are beginning to truly experience what it takes to become a combat controller, some are finding they are not cut out for it while others are being removed due to substandard performances. 

"The first elimination was a self induced elimination, the trainee decided he was not ready for this and requested removal from training," said Senior Master Sgt. Sean Gleffe, CCS Commandant. "The second was a performance elimination; he was unable to maintain the standards during several evolutions of training and was removed from the program." 

"Our role as instructors at the CCS is not to weed out trainees or be gate keepers of the career field," said Master Sgt. Roger Pursley, a CCS instructor. "We are here to produce the most qualified and competent combat controller we can, however we do on occasion have to eliminate or recycle a trainee. Sometimes it is due to a medical condition that developed during training, but most of the time it is because the trainee caused the elimination himself through his own actions." 

As week two commenced the trainees were introduced to two grueling tasks to complete. The first being the weapons relay, an event in which the students were required to carry two jerry cans full of water and run to a check point in which they had to disassemble, then reassemble and finally function check their M-4 weapon. 

"The overall objective of the weapons relay is to be able to perform safeguarding, storage, transporting and safe handling of weapons," said Tech. Sgt. John, a CCS instructor. "The students are taught how to field strip an M-4 assault rifle and the importance of field maintenance and its role in the success of the mission. They are taught each individual part of the M-4 and its inherent problems that may arise from routine usage." 

Sergeant John went on to say that the relay provides a challenging atmosphere that promotes motivation, teamwork and an environment that provides an opportunity for students to apply comprehensive knowledge. It is an exercise designed to reinforce trainee's basic soldiering skills of weapons assembly. 

The event is set up to allow those trainees that need additional opportunities to complete the event until they are the first one done, which at that point, they will sit out the remainder of the evolution until all students have completed the event based on a period of time. 

Each trainee was given classroom instruction on the weapon and its components and is taught how to disassemble and reassemble the weapon in the required time of 1 minute and 45 seconds or less. 

"What impressed me most about this class was their ability to maintain a clear and level head in under less than favorable conditions," said Sergeant John about the weapons relay. "At the end of the day, they all meet the task at hand. This is what makes combat controllers so unique to the Air Force and the Global War on Terrorism." 

The second task conducted by the trainees during week two was a rigorous three mile physical training event through the tank trails of neighboring Ft. Bragg. 

"Tank trails PT is team building event, most like all events at the CCS," said Sergeant Pursley. "One of the main goals at our course is to encourage individuals to work as a team. During training and on the battle field, they must be able to depend on their team and they must be able to depend on them in whatever situation they are in. In training and in real world engagements, their actions can mean life or death for them or their teammates. Tank trails PT continues to enforce this teamwork concept." 

The trainees are loaded into trucks and taken out to the tank trails on neighboring Ft. Bragg. Once they arrive, they are unloaded and start a rigorous three-mile walk and run up and down the hills and woods, low-crawling through the water and mud pits of the tank trails all along the way. It is a grueling course of high hills, thick mud and a test of each trainee's true ability to stick it out to the end. 

"Teamwork can be as complex or as easy as a group of individual's make it," said Sergeant Pursley. "Teamwork is a group of individuals or buddy teams working together as a whole, in one way or another, to accomplish a common goal or task. For example, on the tank trails session it could have been as simple as the team working together to keep each other motivated by using cadence songs or as easy as encouraging that one trainee left behind to keep up with the group." 

As week two came to an end and week three began and as two of the 21 trainees were eliminated, the remainder of Class 09-003 realized just how much it is really going to take for them to complete this course. They have started to realize that teamwork and exceeding the standard at every task is at the core of their successful completion of this course and by doing so they will eventually gain the honor of the red beret.