Hulman Field, Ind. --
In 2010, the Tactical Air Control Party career field was one of eight Air Force Specialty Codes with the highest training wash-out rates. Over 44% of its Airmen and 50% of its Officers washed out of the program. While some wash outs were due to unavoidable injuries synonymous with aggressive training, an unfortunate percentage were also due to individuals simply not being able to perform under the stress of an intensive physical and academic program.
While the program no longer offers candidates the option of self eliminating, the reality of the program is that once a candidate becomes emotionally or physically compromised it becomes increasingly more difficult to perform to the required standards. In many cases that compromise is the result of a nearly immediate immersion in a program where not every participant gets a trophy and the warm blanket of encouragement may be at the end of a very long and significantly less friendly path. The technical school is designed with a singular purpose, to produce highly trained and highly competent Battlefield Airmen who can perform in a career field where carrying 50% of their body weight is as common as manually programming network centric tactical communications equipment.
While some failures are to be accepted based on the nature of the program, the Air National Guard Air Support Operations Squadrons have a unique opportunity to help prepare individuals to perform in demanding environments prior to departing for school through the 1-Level training program. This newly developed course will give students a brief glimpse of the challenges, dedication and commitment required to earn the black beret.
The 113th ASOS conducted its first 1 Level course in June for Airmen interested in becoming TACP members. The course was designed by SSgt. Zach 'Leroy' Eason to expose candidates to the mental and physical challenges they will need to endure throughout formal training. This orientation introduces the candidates to the expectations and requirements for the schoolhouse as well as service in the 113th. The course is not meant to immediately build every Airmen up to graduating standards, but rather to help inoculate them from future failure by exposing them to a variety of challenges in a constructive environment.
The program is comprised of formal events required for admission into the pipeline such as the Physical Ability Stamina Test and ruck marches as well as informal events consisting of written aptitude tests and team building exercises. The academic events are designed to help the candidates identify their individual cognitive weaknesses by challenging them to concentrate on a variety of subject matter when they are already physically stressed. The final, and arguably most important events, are the team building exercises. These exercises challenge the student's leadership, motivation, creativity and problem-solving ability. It also forces team members to trust and depend on each other which will be critical during all phases of their career.
This program also relied heavily on the experience of Master Sgt. Scott 'Juggz' McPhee, a seasoned TACP veteran, as well as several recent graduates of the pipeline like Senior Airman William 'Shooter' Camp and Senior Airman Leis to help identify any negative trends or potential weaknesses candidates may have. Early identification of those problems affords ANG ASOS's the opportunity to develop unique programs to prepare candidates for success in tech school where the long standing motto remains as "The strong shall stand; the weak will fall by the wayside."
Special thanks to Senior Master Sgt. Johanningsmeier, Senior Master Sgt. Cook, Master Sgt. Carithers, Master Sgt. Mullinex, Tech. Sgt. Simmons, Staff Sgt. Garret 'MOH' Ames, Senior Airman Felix and Airman 1st Class Hollen who were also instrumental in ensuring the success of the program.