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Cadets live the life of a Combat Controller

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Cammie Quinn
  • 43rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
Professionalism, precision and physical fitness are three key lessons taught during a Combat Control Orientation Course at Pope Aug. 1.

The CCOC is a week-long course allowing Civil Air Patrol cadets to replicate the training environment and promote an awareness of the job duties performed by combat control and special tactics Airmen.

"There's so much that combat control encompasses, we try to represent the bigger things that Combat Control Team is all about," said Tech. Sgt. David Siemiet, 24th Special Tactics Squadron. "Along with the simulators, and classroom instruction, the cadets learn how to accomplish ancillary tasks performed by combat controllers."

Sergeant Siemiet, CAP instructor, is an active duty technical sergeant assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron and has volunteered his time with the program for more than 18 years, where he wears the rank of lieutenant colonel. The course is designed to showcase the capabilities of combat control and special tactics Airmen to the younger generation of CAP cadets.

The course's schedule included physical training, weapons training, simulators, an opportunity to dismount a 34-foot jump tower and skydiving instructions at a wind tunnel.
For one cadet, the CCOC provided insight to a little-known career in the military.

"I never knew what a combat controller was before I got here," Cadet Daniel Fratila-Ilies, said. "We get to see some of the things they do and we get to try it out for ourselves."

On a typical day, the cadets run to the combat control school where they work out with Combat Control School cadre for an hour and a half. Following the CCS exercises, the cadets run to Pope's Fitness Center where they continue to exercise before getting ready for the day. They grab their supplies, raise the flag at the combat control school, fill up their water jugs and begin the day with the first set of instructions, all within two hours.

Through the encouragement from their instructors, and endless demands for perfection, the cadets have overcome many mental blockades and have pushed passed their limits.
"Limits are kind of like a cold rubber band," Cadet John Bailey, said. "You keep pushing and working them and they'll stretch. If you just hit them really hard, they're going to break."

To be successful throughout the course, cadets are expected to maintain situational awareness as well as good time management.

"The program provides excellent leadership training and organizational skills," said Major Sankey Blanford, CCOC instructor. "This is an opportunity to develop personal discipline."

Major Sankey Blandon has been involved in CAP since 2004 and serves as the Aerospace Education officer for his squadron.

"We keep a rigorous schedule," said Sergeant Siemiet. "We focus on attention to detail. If they don't pay attention to detail, it's likely they'll drop and do push-ups. If they forget equipment, we add more to their ruck sacks so they have more to carry around. It's a lot of reinforcing positive behaviors."

"We're getting a lot of hands-on instruction. It's one thing to sit in a class and talk about the airborne procedures," Cadet Brent Sacks, said. "We get a mock up and we're able to do it-- it exposes us to the real thing.

The cadets unanimously voted the wind tunnel as their favorite event, as it gave them a chance to feel what it is like to skydive.

"The wind tunnel is more difficult than skydiving," said Staff Sgt. Joe Byrne, 21st STS.

"When you're skydiving, the air is cleaner, whereas in the tunnel, the air is pushing against you."

Sergeant Siemiet said the course provides cadets the confidence they'll need, should they choose to make the military part of their future.

"The program is designed to teach cadets teamwork," Sergeant Siemiet said. "They learn discipline and to do things quickly and correctly the first time."

"When they show up here, they have to want it, and we're going to push them throughout the week. If they want to graduate, they're going to stick it out. We ramp it up every day, each day is more difficult by several degrees, they learn though, to push past the pain and to keep going."

Sergeant Siemiet's goal is to turn the Combat Control Orientation Course into an annual activity held each summer here at Pope.