Let’s take a quick look at the United States Air Force TAC P’s or Tactical Air control party and their command structure. People, training and missions special tactics Tactical Air control Party specialists or TAC P’s are battlefield airmen who are part of special tactics and assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command or AFSOC, the Air Force component of US SOCOM. TAC P candidates are enlisted men between 17 and 39 who can successfully complete the TAC P past or physical ability and stamina test, earn a minimum score of 30 on the TAC P selection model, pass a class three flight physical and be eligible for a top secret clearance. These highly trained experts go through 14 weeks of intense physical, mental and technical training at Lacklan Air Force Base, Texas. After finishing tech school, TAC PEas go to Sear school or survival, evasion, resistance and escape at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington.
Many TAC PEas then go to Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. TAC peas are authorized to wear the prestigious black beret. TAC peas are now qualified to embed with conventional units and deploy anywhere in the world. Most TAC P’s end up supporting army combat arms units. Once a TACP is matured in competency and experience, he will attend a four week joint tactical air control course or JTAC course and earn the JTAC qualification.
As a point of clarification, the term JTAC is a qualification or certification that any career field can obtain by attending the school. Members in the combat control or TAC P career fields predominantly hold the JTAC qualification. Once JTAC qualified, TAC P’s can continue to support conventional forces or they can apply to and get selected to join AFSOC as a special Tactics TAC P. Only about 5% of TAC P’s are special Tactics TAC P’s. Special Tactic TAC P candidates will go to jump school if they have not yet attended and then they will go through the rigorous selection process run by the Special Tactics Training Squadron.
Only about 35% of applicants are selected. Selectees will then attend the twelve week special tactics Advanced Skills course at Herbert Field, Florida and then get assigned to a special tactics squadron which provides support to other units within SOCOM. Special Tactics TAC P’s embed with soft units on the front line with the incredible responsibility of calling in airstrikes on the right target at just the right time. Their missions include planning and directing close air support, planning and directing fire support. This can be from land based artillery units or from naval gunfire and serving as air liaisons this is when TACPS advise ground commanders on the best use of air power.
As a special operations task Force executive officer forward deployed, I had the honor of working with a special tactics TACP who was embedded with one of the ODAs in our task force. During a mission to kill capture the number one bad guy in the province, the ODA got into a serious firefight. The TACP was shot in the chest. The special forces medic pulled him into a nearby building and took off his kit and body armor to apply first aid. The Takpi kept his headset on and despite his sucking chest wound and the occasional needle chest decompression, he continued to call in close air support until the tide of the battle turned.
He even called in his own medevac. What an inspiration. Having recovered from his wounds, the TACP was awarded the Air Force Cross for his heroism. Okay, there you have it. An executive summary of special tactics.
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