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This article is structured as follows:

  • Part 01: Background to the US Air Force’s Tactical Air Control Party (TACP).
  • Part 02: Entry Standards and Applications.
  • Part 03: Outline of US Air Force TACP Selection & Training.
  • Part 04: Miscellaneous.


1.0     Introduction

US Air Force, AFSOC, TACPThis article provides an overview of the recruitment, selection and training process for the US Air Force’s Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) and Special Tactics TACP (ST TACP).


There have been significant changes in the recruitment and training of special warfare operators, as they are now known, as well as a change in some roles. Detailed information on the changes can be found at:

This is now a legacy page.


TACP, formerly known as Tactical Air Command and Control (AETC, 1994; CFETP, 2001), are one of four enlisted specialities along with three officer specialities that form what are known as Battlefield Airmen (Table 1). In brief, these Battlefield Airmen include:

  • Combat Controllers (CCT): Are specialists who focus on air-to-ground terminal control.
  • Pararescuemen (PJs): These are the guys you see in all the movies (think Black Hawk Down). They deliver battlefield trauma care, as well as personnel recovery and combat search and rescue.
  • Combat Weather Teams: Meteorological interpretation, which can affect how the battlefield is going to change and how commanders conduct operations.
  • Tactical Air Control Party (TACP): Are air-to-ground specialists, but they focus primarily on close air support (CAS).
  • Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape (SERE): Perform duties as the name implies. Not strictly a special operations role, but has significant input in training and exercises conducted by special operations.

These Air Commandos form the special operations element of the US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Special Operations Forces (SOF) community, which is the air component of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

The role of US Air Force TACP is to control and execute operational air and space power by engaging enemy forces utilising advanced technologies and weapon systems to direct airstrikes in close proximity of friendly forces. TACPs operate in austere combat environments, independent of an established airbase or its perimeter defences and are typically employed as part of a joint, interagency or coalition force to support combatant commander objectives. Their role includes:

  • Operating communications, digital networks and precision targeting equipment.
  • Integrating, planning and briefing manoeuvre commanders and staff on combat capabilities of air and space power.
  • Processing and requesting air and space resources to support ground manoeuvre units.
  • Targeting and controlling surface-to-surface and air-to-surface-fires.
  • Planning, coordinating and executing fire missions to accomplish supported commander’s objectives, including close air support (CAS) and supporting arms for surface elements, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) in support of Combined Forces Air Component Commander’s assets.
  • Employing visual, electronic and marking equipment to direct aviation assets to target.
  • Issuing weapons release clearance.
  • Conducting infiltration, surface movement, and exfiltration functions with combat manoeuvre forces.
  • Performing mounted and dismounted navigation, and operating in combat vehicles.
  • Performing site selection.

Consequently, TACP are experts in directing weapon systems, such as fighters, on to a target. A TACP can consist of a variety of personnel, although may operate singularly, and may include personnel assigned as (US Air Force, 2014c):

  • Enlisted TACP;
  • Air Liaison Officer (ALO) or Battalion ALO;
  • Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Liaison Officer; and/or
  • Space Liaison Officer.

US Air Force, AFSOC, TACP BadgeFrom boot camp to first deployment, a TACP may undertake up to three years of training. From TACP technical school to Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) qualification, it can take up to three years; on average, it takes 12-24 months to become JTAC-qualified.

Approximately 5-10% of TACPs are Special Tactics TACP qualified, although some sources suggest only 1% (the exact number of TACPs is currently unknown, but it is a small specialty numbering in the low hundreds). The majority of TACPs belong to Air Combat Command and support conventional US Army units with precision air strike and air power communication capabilities.

To become a ST TACP, candidates must first have experience within the TACP career field, and then apply and be specially selected for Special Tactics. In this role, ST TACP personnel deploy with SOF to provide JTAC by integrating air combat power and surface fires into the ground scheme of manoeuvre.

Consequently, ST TACPs support US Special Operations Command assets by providing JTAC and fire support expertise for all three US Army Ranger Battalions, the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Reconnaissance Company, US Army Special Forces, US Navy SEALs and other Special Mission Units.

ST TACPs are assigned to the 17th Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Benning, Georgia; Joint Base Lewis McChord in Tacoma, Washington; Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia; and all four active duty Special Tactics Squadrons located in the continental US.

In 2009, Baskin and colleagues (2009) suggested that it cost approximately $30,000 to train each TACP candidate, with 3953 training days wasted each year and a 50% failure rate (August 2007 to February 2009). Baskin and Colleagues (2009, p.8) also noted that “success is associated with being older and has greater physical ability as measured by run, […] pushups, crunches and pullups.” During the four courses, Baskin and Colleagues observed 122 candidates, of which 63 succeeded and 59 failed. Across the 22 psychological traits tested scores varied; however, reality test, flexibility and problem solving were lower (better) in successful candidates.

It must be emphasised that a candidate must be physically fit at the beginning of the TACP or ST TACP training process if they are to stand any chance of success. The course requires far greater expenditure of physical energy than is normally required in other peace time training. It is essential that candidates arrive fully fit, carrying no injuries and with a sound grasp of basic navigation techniques.

1.1     Aim

The aim of this article is to describe the fundamental entry requirements, selection process and training for personnel seeking to become a US Air Force Tactical Air Control Party and/or Special Tactics Tactical Air Control Party.

1.2     Women and US Air Force Special Tactics

From January 2016, in accordance with current US Federal Government policy on the employment of women in the US military, service in the US Air Force’s SOF community is open to both male and female volunteers (Pellerin, 2015).

Women in the US military have, for a number of years, been able to serve in a variety of SOF-related roles, including:

  • Intelligence;
  • Military information support;
  • Civil affairs units;
  • Female engagement teams;
  • Cultural support teams; and
  • Air Force special operations aviation roles.

As of March 2015, approximately two-thirds of the roles in USSOCOM were integrated (Vogel, 2015).

1.3     Air Force Special Operations Specialty Codes

There are a number of Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) within the USAF special operations community, known as Battlefield Airmen, as outlined in Table 1.

Table 1: Air Force Specialty Codes for Battlefield Airmen
Officer Roles AFSC Code
Special Tactics Officer (STO) 13CX
Combat Rescue Officer (CRO) 13DX
Special Operations Weather Team – Officer (SOWT-O) 15WXC
Enlisted Roles
Combat Controller (CCT) 1C2XX
Pararescue (PJs) 1T2XX
Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) 1C4XX
Special Operations Weather Team – Enlisted (SOWT-E) 1W0XX
Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) 1T0XX
Source: US Air Force, 2014a; 2014b
  • For officers, there are three levels, with each level represented by the suffix: 1 (Entry); 3 (Qualified); and 4 (Staff).
  • For enlisted personnel there are five levels, with each level represented by the suffix: 11 (Helper); 31 (Apprentice); 51 (Journeyman); 71 (Craftsman); and 91 (Superintendent); replace the 1 with 2 for SOWT-E.
  • For SOWT-O, the C suffix represents special operations trained.


2.0     Introduction

Logo, AFSOC, Air Force Special Operations Command, US, Special Forces, USAFInformation regarding the basic requirements for enlistment or commissioning in the US Air Force can be found by clicking on the links, which the reader is advised to read if not already familiar.

The US Air Force does accept direct entry applicants, i.e. civilians with no prior military experience, for the TACP branch. As a result, volunteers for TACP may be accepted from US civilians and US military enlisted personnel from any branch of military service to serve with the US Air Force’s Special Operations community.

Consequently, there are three recognised pathways to becoming a US Air Force TACP:

  1. Enlist as a civilian;
  2. Enlist while in the US Air Force and apply for a transfer; or
  3. Enlist from another Branch of Military Service.

Candidates for ST TACP must already be in the TACP branch in order to be eligible to apply for the ST TACP training pipeline.

2.1     Special Operations Recruiting Liaison

Recruitment for TACP is conducted through a number of Special Operations Recruiting Liaison Operating Locations (OL-C to O) throughout the US.

The OL’s fall within the 24th Special Operations Wing.

2.2     General Requirements and Eligibility for All Candidates

Subject to the requirements outlined below, all US Air Force enlisted personnel are eligible to attend the TACP training programme.

General Requirements for all candidates:

  • Be a US citizen.
  • JTAC (SEI 914).
  • Must be between the ages 17 and 39.
  • Education:
    • For entry into this specialty, completion of high school with courses in advanced mathematics and basic computer skills is desirable.
    • Completion of Basic Military Training.
    • Completion of specialty training courses.
  • Meet physical qualification for parachutist duty.
  • Maintain physical fitness and water confidence standards.
  • ASVAB score:
    • General: 49
    • Strength Aptitude Code: K (demonstrate weight lift of 70lbs).
  • Completion of a current National Agency Check, Local Agency Checks and Credit (NACLC).
  • Able to obtain a Top Secret Security clearance.
  • Complete five year controlled tour.
  • Financially stable.
  • Deployment:
    • Able to deploy within 18 hours.
    • Must maintain ability to deploy and mobilise worldwide.
  • Pass relevant Physical Fitness Test (PAST or BAPFT, TACPPFT: view Section 2.4).
  • Medical:
    • Compliance with medical standards for Ground Base Controller Duty.
    • USAF Class III Flight Physical (Special Warfare Initial Clearance).
    • PULHES: all 1s.
    • Have normal colour vision; and
    • Have vision of 20/70 or better, correctible to 20/20.
  • Candidates can be drawn from:
    • Re-trainees (i.e. US Air Force personnel who have completed basic military training and advanced training);
    • Prior Service (i.e. candidates re-joining the US Air Force or candidates from another branch of military service);
    • Air National Guard;
    • Air Force Reserve;
    • Non-Prior Service personnel (i.e. candidates with no previous military service).

2.3     Specific Requirements

  • All re-trainee candidates are interviewed by a 1C4X1 and receive a PAST (Section 2.4) from this 1C4X1 or their unit physical training leader.
  • Active duty non-prior service candidates, who enter the US Air Force without a guaranteed AFSC, are screened by 1C4X1 personnel at Lackland Air Force Base.
  • Personnel who enter the US Air Force under the Guaranteed Enlistment Programme are screened by their recruiter.
  • Air National Guard (ANG) candidates are screened by the gaining ANG TACP unit.
  • ANG TACP candidates must complete the ANG ‘TACP One Level Programme’ for TACP selection consideration.

2.4     ST TACP Physical Fitness Test

The Special Tactics Tactical Air Control Party Physical Fitness Test (ST TACP PFT) is the new name for the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST), which it is replacing during 2016.

The ST TAC PPFT is utilised as an initial physical screening tool that must be passed in order to start training (and also during training where the standards become more stringent).

The AFSC’s identified in Table 1 undertake ST TACP PFT tests that have slightly different minimum standards based on the requirement of each role, as well as different components.

On some documents the test is known as the Battlefield Airman Physical Fitness Test (BAPFT) and has four tiers: recruitment test; accession test; training test; and operator test (Scott, 2016). A number of the tried and tested components remain, but there are a number of new components. Scott provides a good initial overview of the (proposed) test. The test from another angle can be seen here.

With this in mind, Tables 2a and 2b provide an outline of the ST TACP PFT test (or Entry PAST) for ST TACPs and TACPs during training.

During early 2019, the USAF will be introducing the first “career field-specific physical fitness standards — called Tier 2 standards.” (Losey, 2018). The USAF will establish career field-specific standards for all battlefield jobs (Losey, 2018).

You can view the updated fitness assessments here.

Table 2a: Air Force ST TACP Physical Fitness Test (2016)
Event Component Criteria Time Limit Rest Period
1 Calisthenics
1a Heaves 8 or more 2 minute 2 minutes
1b Sit-ups 60 or more 2 minutes 2 minutes
1c Press-ups 45 or more 2 minutes ? minutes
2 3 Mile Run Non-stop 24 minutes or less ? minutes
3 Combat Water Survival Swim ? ? ?
4 Loaded March 12 miles carrying 55lb, weapon, LCE and helmet 3 hours or less N/A
Source: US Air Force, 2016
Table 2b: Air Force TACP Physical Fitness Test (2009)
Event Press-ups Sit-ups Heaves Run Loaded March Obstacle Course
For Entry to Specialty
Entry PAST 39 45 2 11:42 (1.5 mile) N/A N/A
Day 1 of TACP Apprentice Course
Entry PAST 45 50 8 11:08 (1.5 mile) N/A N/A
Prior to Graduation
Progression PAST 45 50 8 11:08 (1.5 mile) 20 kilometres in 240 minutes or less with total weight of 95lb (including rucksack, LBE, boots, clothing, helmet and weapon) Participate in team-building exercise utilising the TACP obstacle course
Source: CFETP, 2009, p.35


3.0     Special Tactics TACP Selection and Training Phases

The journey to becoming an ST TACP is not easy, and training is rigorous and highly selective, but the courage and strength individuals will gain as a candidate will stay with them for their entire life.

The ST TACP training programme is the selection and training process for all candidates wishing to join the Air Force’s SOF community as an ST TACP.

All candidates will undertake a number of distinct stages of training (Table 3), in which candidates are taught the fundamentals of Air Force special warfare through formal US Air Force schooling and on-the-job training.

Table 3: ST TACP training pipeline
Stage Programme Sub-course/Element Duration
Preparation Enlistment Process Variable
Basic Military Training 9.5 weeks
Assessment Tactical Air Control Party Preparatory Course 1 week
TACP Training Tactical Air Control Party Apprentice Course 85 days
SERE Training 2.5/3 weeks
Special Tactics Training Joint Terminal Attack Controller Qualification Course 4 weeks
Basic Airborne Course (scroll down to Section 3.2) 3 weeks
Special Tactics Advanced Skills Course 12 weeks
Continuation Training As required training that is necessary to maintain proficiency Variable
Source: Air Force Officer Classification Directory, 2014b, p.45-46; US Air Force, 2016

The skills and knowledge gained during this programme of training includes:

  • Knowledge of theatre air and space operations to include; weapons systems and munitions characteristics and capabilities;
  • Aircraft employment;
  • Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities;
  • Targeting systems;
  • CAS tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs);
  • Military Decision Making Process;
  • Joint fires integration;
  • Tactical communications and computer procedures and equipment;
  • Data links;
  • Antenna theory;
  • Map, global positioning equipment, navigation techniques, and military symbology;
  • Small unit tactics;
  • Close quarter combat;
  • Signalling and marking;
  • Individual and crew-served weapons employment;
  • Battlefield lifesaving procedures;
  • Chemical warfare defence equipment;
  • Occupational risk management;
  • Joint, Army and Air Force manuals, instructions, technical orders, and regulations;
  • Physical readiness;
  • Theatre Air Ground System;
  • Air Support Operations Centre (ASOC) and TACP vehicle and support equipment operations, management, and operator maintenance;
  • Army and Air Force supply and mobility procedures; and
  • Army command and unit staff functions and tasking’s.

3.1     Training Hierarchy

The 342nd Training Squadron, commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4), is a unit of the 37th Training Group and is headquartered at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

The Squadron is the home of all US Air Force Battlefield Airman entry-level training for PJs, CCT, SOWT and TACP candidates, and has a number of geographically dispersed units (Table 4) that deliver Battlefield Airman Career field training to candidates.

Table 4: 342nd Training Squadron Subordinate Detachments and Operating Locations
Unit Title Location Purpose
Detachment 1 Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico Pararescue/Combat Rescue Officer School
Detachment 2 Naval System Agency, Panama City Air Force Combat Dive Course
Detachment 3 Hurlburt Field, Florida Tactical Air Control Party/Career Air Liaison Officer School
Operating Location A Camp Bullis, Texas Expeditionary Skill Training (Basic Combat Convoy Course (BC3) and Combat Airman Skills Training (CAST))
Operating Location B Fort Benning, Georgia Basic Airborne Course, Jumpmaster, Ranger School and Pathfinder
Operating Location C Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina Combat Control/Special Tactics Officer, Special Operations Weather School and Air Force Jumpmaster
Operating Location D Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona US Army Military Free-fall School
Source: US Air Force, 2011

3.2     Basic Military Training

Since February 2011, pre-screened candidates for Battlefield Airmen careers (including TACP, CCT and PJs) have had a BATTLE plan in place during their basic military training (BMT). BATTLE being an acronym for Battlefield Airmen Technical Training Liaison Element (Joseph, 2011).

BATTLE training was incorporated for 320th and 331st Training Squadron trainees who receive the additional training (weeks 2 to 7) during BMT to better prepare them for their upcoming training/jobs.

Following BMT graduation, the journey continues at the 342nd Training Squadron, home to all Air Force Battlefield Airmen entry-level training. The curriculum includes Pararescue Indoctrination, TACP and PJ Development and the Combat Control Selection courses.

3.3     TACP Preparatory Course

US Air Force, AFSOC, TACP, CAS System SoftwareThe TACP Preparatory Course is delivered by the 342nd Training Squadron, located at Lackland Air Force Base Annex in Texas. The course is also attended by Air Liaison Officers (ALOs), the officer equivalent.

The selection process screens an applicant for mental fortitude and physical capabilities, while preparing candidates for future duties as a TACP. Thus the selection process reduces the training attrition rate by ensuring that candidates selected are equipped to succeed in the specific mental and physical challenges of the training pipeline.

The 1-week course trains future TACP personnel through introductory physical and mental conditioning and development. The course aims to educate candidates on the TACP career field and also identify those candidates unsuitable for the role. As such, training includes mentoring and coaching in:

  • Calisthenics (i.e. bodyweight) training.
  • Running training.
  • Combat Water Survival Training.
  • TACP history, roles and responsibilities/career field duties/missions.
  • Team building skills.
  • Sports nutrition.
  • Exercise physiology.
  • Stress resilience or psychological enhancement training.

Successful completion of the TACP Preparatory Course, including an entry-level Physical Fitness Test (or Physical Abilities and Stamina Test (PAST) test) and a 4-mile timed ruck march, is a prerequisite to the TACP Apprentice Course.

In 2003, the US Air Force began planning the Common Battlefield Airmen Training (CBAT) programme (GAO, 2009) for designated enlisted personnel. Initially, the CBAT programme had two goals:

  1. Annually provide standardised training to approximately 1,400 airmen within seven ‘battlefield airmen’ occupational specialties; and
  2. Assist in retaining airmen within these seven occupations.

However, after a review following a change in leadership, it was decided to cancel the CBAT programme in August 2008.

By January 2009, the US Air Force had begun developing another training programme (the Battlefield Airmen Screening Course) that would mirror the CBATs programme’s original goal of providing standardised combat skills training to personnel in the seven Battlefield Airmen occupations. The US Air Force, in 2009, did not expect the course to be implemented before 2013 due to an inability to request formal funding for the new course until 2012. It was noted, at the time, that the US Air Force had not yet validated the need for such a programme, but would do so (GAO, 2009).

In the summer of 2010, candidates faced another obstacle during their selection process, the Emotional Quotient Indicator (Tan, 2010); designed to “get a sense of how well they will do in training.”

Since 2014 (or possibly 2015), Battlefield Airmen candidates have faced a new screening process. Traditionally, candidates were selected on cognitive and physical tests (Acosta et al., 2014). Now candidates are assessed on:

  • Cognitive (using ASVAB);
  • Physical (using PAST or PFT);
  • Personality (using TAPAS: Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System); “minimum score of 30 on TACP selection model” (AFECD, 2014, p.46).

The three scores are combined and provide a raw likelihood of training success. Early research by Acosta and colleagues (2014) suggest a correlation between a high percentile score and likelihood of completing training.

3.4     Tactical Air Control Party Apprentice Course

The Tactical Air Control Party Apprentice Course is 85 days in duration, delivered at Lackland Air Force Base, and is divided into three blocks:

  • Block 1: This 30 day block of training covers Basic Career Knowledge and includes portable radio familiarisation, basic career knowledge and associated publications.
  • Block 2: This 30 day block of training cover Ground Environment Training and includes a field training exercise, day and night land navigation, vehicle navigation, convoy training and small unit tactics. Other elements include training in bivouac setup, site selection, patrolling methods, and day and night navigation on foot and in a vehicle.
  • Block 3: This 25 day block of training covers Air Support Coordination/Weapons Systems and includes methods and means of requesting CAS, weapons effects and utilisation and other coordination procedures. Candidates must complete a 12-mile loaded march, underwater training and combatives before graduating technical school.

In 2006 the course was 73 days in duration and consisted of six blocks of training, although only five are described (Haig, 2006):

  • Block 1: Covered basic career knowledge and associated publications.
  • Block 2: Covered portable communications, where candidates learned several different procedures and radio language skills.
  • Block 3: Involved day and night foot navigation, vehicle navigation, convoy training and small unit tactics. It is was considered the ‘make-or-break’ block of this phase of training. Candidates were taken out in the field for a six-day land navigation, global positioning system, map plotting and compass training exercise. Candidates lived in the dirt and had only what they carry on their back. They learned to overcome fear as they train, many times alone, on navigating with map and compass in the dark through the woods. Candidates would be observed by their movements through GPS trackers, and instructors would often ambush the candidates simulating an actual combat situation. Candidates were sleep deprived and put under constant physical duress to see how well they work as a team. Candidates on the six-day exercise had two opportunities to pass the navigation tests. Should they fail this portion, they failed the course.
  • Block 4: Was aircraft and vehicle recognition, and air support coordination. The candidates was taught how to better understand joint air operation centres and tactical air control systems. Candidates were tasked to operate several radios while utilising aircraft in support of ground operations.
  • Block 5: This was where all the training came together. Candidates would go on a three-day ‘real-world’ scenario. They plotted targets on maps, requested aircraft for CAS using assigned call signs and work convoy procedures. The instructors set up improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to make sure the candidates were moving in teams, keeping guard and helping each other as a team.
  • After graduation, the next step was attending The US Air Force Survival School.

3.5     SERE Training

The 2.5-week (3-weeks?) SERE (Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion) training course is delivered by the US Air Force Basic Survival School, located at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington (CFETP, 2008).

The course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas (using minimal equipment) and training include principles, procedures, equipment and techniques, which enable individuals to survive, regardless of climatic conditions or unfriendly environments and return home.

3.6     Joint Terminal Attack Controller Qualification Course

AFSOC, Special Operations Terminal Attack Controller, JTACThe 4 week Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Qualification Course is delivered at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

“A JTAC is a qualified (certified) Service member who, from a forward position, directs the action of combat aircraft engaged in close air support and other offensive air operations.” (US Air Force, 2015, p.5).

Similar to other Air Force training, JTAC training is divided into:

  • Initial Qualification Training (IQT): JTAC IQT is the process to train a JTAC in basic controller duties without regard to the unit’s mission.
  • Mission Qualification Training (MQT): JTAC MQT provides the training necessary to initially qualify or re-qualify JTACs in specific duty position(s) and controller duties required to perform unit assigned missions.
  • Combat Mission Ready (CMR): JTAC CMR status is attained when a candidate successfully completes IQT and MQT, passes a formal JTAC evaluation as outlined in AFI 13-112, Volume 2 and has the unit commander’s certification. CMR JTACs are authorised to perform unsupervised terminal attack controls.
  • Continuation Training (CT): local and/or mission specific additional training requirements. JTAC continuation training (CT) begins the date following the initial/requalification control-phase evaluation.

Training during this course includes:

  • AFSOC, JTACCAS planning.
  • CAS preparation.
  • CAS execution.
  • Target acquisition.
  • Target location.
  • Coordinate CAS missions.
  • Coordinate CAS target engagement.
  • Execute de-confliction of aviation assets.
  • Execute target marking for CAS assets.
  • Execute appropriate terminal attack control procedures.
  • Control precision weapons CAS missions in support of the ground scheme of manoeuvre.
  • Control day and night CAS missions in support of the ground scheme of manoeuvre.
  • Integrate illumination in support of night CAS missions.
  • Attack assessment.
  • A CAS Mission Practical Exercise: This is a comprehensive training event that includes all areas of mission planning, coordination, and execution but does not involve control of actual aircraft. CAS mission practical exercises are rehearsals/simulations that allow candidates to demonstrate the skills associated with correct use of TTPs during various types of CAS control.

Other personnel who might be attend the JTAC Qualification Course includes, but is not limited to:

  • Air Liaison Officers (assigned to a TACP UTC that requires JTAC qualification or those designated as JTACs by the Unit Commander);
  • Combat Control Operators (designated as JTACs by Unit commander);
  • Special Tactics Officers (designated as JTACs by Unit commander); and
  • Forward Air Controller (Airborne).

3.7     Basic Airborne Course

US Army, Airborne Training, Basic Airborne CourseAll candidates must attend the Basic Airborne Course delivered by the US Army at the Airborne School, Fort Benning in Georgia (CFETP, 2008).

During the 3-week course, candidates will learn the basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop.

Detailed information on the 3-week Basic Airborne Course can be found here, (scroll down to Section 3.2).

3.8     Special Tactics Advanced Skills Course

The 12 week Special Tactics Advance Skills Course is delivered by the Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The course is for newly assigned TACP personnel, producing mission-ready operators for AFSOC and USSOCOM, and is delivered in four distinct phases: water; ground; employment; and full mission profile.

3.9     Graduation

Upon graduation, candidates will be awarded the coveted scarlet beret and Pararescue Flash (a tradition started in 1966) signifying their entry into the Special Tactics brotherhood (Kendall, 2013).

Graduating from the Pararescue training pipeline, Enlisted Pararescue are assigned to an operational Special Tactics Squadron (STS) in AFSOC or Air Combat Command.

3.10     Further Opportunities

There are a number of opportunities for personnel, which include:

  • Military Free-fall Parachutist Course – 5 weeks – Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.
  • Static line Jumpmaster School – 3 weeks – Ft. Benning, Ga.
  • Military Free-fall Jumpmaster School – 3 weeks – Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.
  • US Army Pathfinder School – 3 weeks – Ft. Benning, Ga.
  • US Army Air Assault School – 2 weeks – Various Locations
  • US Army Sniper School – 5 weeks – Ft. Benning, Ga.
  • US Army Ranger School – 61 Days, Ft. Benning, Ga.
  • Combat Diver Qualification Course – 7 weeks – Key West, Florida.


4.0     Summary

The Pararescue branch is open to all male and female enlisted personnel of the US Air Force. Pararescue Training seeks to attract determined, highly-motivated, intelligent, reliable and physically fit individuals to serve with the US Air Force’s SOF community. This article provides the basic information to allow individuals to make an informed judgement before applying for Pararescue training.

4.1     Useful Books, Documents and Magazines

  • Air Force Policy Directives (AFPD):
    • AFPD 10-30 – Personnel Recovery. Dated 09 February 2012.
    • AFPD 10-35 – Battlefield Airmen.
    • AFPD 16-12 – Pararescue. Dated 01 July 1998.
    • AFPD 16-13 – Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape (SERE). Dated 01 March 2000.
  • Air Force Instructions (AFI):
    • AFI 13-112, Volume 01 – Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Training Programme, AFSOC Supplement. Dated 23 September 2015.
    • AFI 13-112, Volume 02 – Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Standardisation & Evaluation Programme, AFSOC Supplement. Dated 23 September 2015.
    • AFI 13-113, Volume 01 – Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Training Programme, Change 1. Dated 24 July 2014.
    • AFI 13-113, Volume 02 – Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Standardisation & Evaluation Programme.
    • AFI 13-219, Volume 1 – Combat Control & Special Tactics Officer Training. Dated 21 April 2011.
    • AFI 13-219, Volume 2 – Combat Control & Special Tactics Officer Standardisation & Evaluation. Dated 21 April 2011.
    • AFI 16-1202, Volume 1, Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer Training Programme.
    • AFI 16-1202, Volume 2, Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer Standardisation and Evaluation.
      • AFGCM Supplement 16-1202, Volume 2, Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer Standardisation and Evaluation.
    • AFI 31-501, Personnel Security Programme Management.
    • AFI 36-2210, Airfield Operations Officer Training Programme.
    • AFI 48-123, Medical Examinations and Standards.
  • Career Field Education & Training Plans (CFETP):
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 13DX, Combat Rescue Officer. Dated 01 February 2015.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 15WX, Weather Officer. Dated 15 March 2012.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1C2X1, Combat Control. Dated 01 September 2014.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1T2XX, Pararescue Specialty. Dated 15 May 2008.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1C4X1, Tactical Air Command & Control Specialist. Dated January 2001.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1C4X1, Tactical Air Control Party. Dated 15 November 2009.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1C4X1, Tactical Air Control Party, Change 1. Dated 28 September 2012.
  • Reports and Studies:
  • Books:

4.2     Useful Links

4.3     References

Acosta, H., Rose, M. & Manley, G. (2014) Battlefield Airmen and Combat Support: Selection and Classification Process. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.acq.osd.mil/rd/hptb/hfetag/meetings/documents/TAG_68_19_22_May_ABERDEEN_P_G_MD/Personnel/PresentationsPersonnel%20SubTAG/6_Personnel_SubTAG_2014_BA_CS_Brief_DSYX_%26_AFRS.pptx. [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Air Force Times (2015) What It Takes to be a Combat Controller and Special Tactics Officer. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/careers/air-force/2015/12/14/what-takes-combat-controller-and-special-tactics-officer/77151426/. [Accessed: 02 March, 2016].

Baskin, J.B., Reinert, A. & Kalns, J.E. (2009) Success in the TACP Training Program: AN Objective Method for Selecting Battlefield Airmen. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA515819. [Accessed: 21 March, 2016].

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (2016) Air Force ROTC. Available from World Wide Web: https://daytonabeach.erau.edu/rotc/air-force/index.html. [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Haig, J. (2006) TACP Training. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.afsoc.af.mil/News/Features/Display/tabid/5043/Article/163845/tacp-training.aspx. [Accessed: 21 March, 2016].

Joseph, M. (2011) New Element Assists TACP, CCT and PJ Trainees. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.jbsa.mil/News/News/tabid/11890/Article/462734/new-element-assists-tacp-cct-and-pj-trainees.aspx. [Accessed: 10 March, 2016].

Kendall, J. (2013) Behind the Scenes with the Pararescuemen. Available from World Wide Web: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/inside-combat-rescue/articles/behind-the-scenes-with-the-pararescuemen/. [Accessed: 13 March, 2016].

Losey, S. (2018) Air Force rolls out new job-specific PT tests to better prepare airmen for the fight. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2018/01/23/air-force-rolls-out-new-job-specific-pt-tests-to-better-prepare-airmen-for-the-fight/. [Accessed: 22 November, 2018].

Pellerin, C. (2015) SecDef Opens all Military Occupations to Women. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.therecruiterjournal.com/secdef-opens-all-military-occupations-to-women.html. [Accessed: 04 December, 2015].

Scott, A. (2016) Upcoming Report: US Air Force Battlefield Airmen Physical Fitness Test. Available from World Wide Web: http://strongswiftdurable.com/military-athlete-articles/upcoming-report-analysis-proposed-us-air-force-battlefield-airmen-physical-fitness-test/. [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Tan, M. (2010) AETC Aims to Lower Warzone Job Washouts. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.socnet.com/showthread.php?t=94855. [Accessed: 13 March, 2016].

US Air Force (2011) 342D Training Squadron. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.37trw.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=18585. [Accessed: 06 March, 2016].

US Air Force (2014a) Air Force Officer Classification Directory (AFOCD). Randall Air Force Base, Texas: Air Force Personnel Centre.

US Air Force (2014b) Air Force Enlisted Classification Directory (AFECD). Randall Air Force Base, Texas: Air Force Personnel Centre.

US Air Force (2014c) Air Force Instruction 13-113, Volume 1 – Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Training Programme, Change 1. Dated 24 July 2014.

US Air Force (2015) Air Force Instruction 13-112, Volume 1 – Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Training Programme, AFSOC Supplement.

US Air Force (2016) Special Tactics Air Control Party. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.24sow.af.mil/SpecialTactics/STTacticalAirControlParty.aspx. [Accessed: 21 March, 2016].

USA Jobs (2014) Training Instructor. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/PrintPreview/370209800. [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Vogel, J.L. (2015) Statement of General Joseph L. Vogel, U.S. Army Commander United States Special Operations Command before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, March 18, 2015. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.socom.mil/Documents/2015%20USSOCOM%20Posture%20Statement.pdf. [Accessed: 29 December, 2015].