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720th Special Tactics Group [720th STG]
"First There"

Combat Controllers, Pararescue, and Combat Weather make up Air Force Special Tactics, one of the most highly trained and versatile specialties in the Department of Defense. For those looking to earn the scarlet beret, they can expect two years of some of the most challenging training in the U.S military. They will be well-rounded, highly skilled warriors after they attend Air Traffic Control school, Army Airborne school, Survival school, Combat Control school, Scuba school, and High Altitude Low Opening jump school. The toughest career in the Air Force -- Combat Controllers (CCTs) -- is a small force of less than 400 men.

In the Army, it's the Rangers. In the Navy, it's the SEALS. In the Air Force, it's Combat Control. As proved in Grenada, Panama, and Iraq, successful military operations often require Combat Controllers to be "First There." They are ground combat forces assigned to Special Tactics Squadrons within the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). They are organized, trained and equipped to rapidly establish and control the air-ground interface and provide airmenship skills in the objective area. Their functions include assault zone assessment and establishment; air traffic control; command and control communications; special operations terminal attack control; and removal of obstacles and unexploded ordnance with demolitions. They provide a unique capability and deploy with joint air and ground forces in the execution of Direct Action, Counterterrorism, Foreign Internal Defense, Humanitarian Assistance, Special Reconnaissance, Austere Airfield, and Combat Search and Rescue operations.

Air Force Combat Controller trained to infiltrate hostile areas and provide ground forces, aircraft, and headquarters commanders with vital satellite communications, command, and control links. They usually carry approximately 100 pounds of equipment consisting of weapons, night-vision goggles, oxygen equipment for High-Altitude Parachuting, rappelling equipment, state-of-the-art communications equipment, and anything else needed to complete the mission.

The 720th Special Tactics Group, with headquarters at Hurlburt Field, FL, has special operations combat controllers, pararescuemen, and combat weathermen who work jointly in Special Tactics Teams (STT). It provides intermediate command, control, and coordination for Air Force Special Tactics forces deployed worldwide. These forces are comprised of combat controllers and pararescuemen who form fast-action deployable units in support of joint or combined special operations task forces.

There are six Special Tactics Squadrons (STS) and one Combat Weather Squadron; all of which, except the 320th and 321st STS, fall under the direct command and control of the 720th STG. The 320th STS at Kadena AB, Japan and the 320th STS at RAF Mildenhall, England are assigned to and under the operational control of the 353rd and the 352nd Special Operations Groups respectively, but under the functional management of the 720th STG.

The 720th also includes the 10th Combat Weather Squadron with headquarters at Hurlburt Fld, FL, and detachments co-located with US Army Special Operations Command units.

The mission of the 720th Special Tactics Group is to organize, train and equip Special Tactics forces worldwide to establish and control the air-ground interface during special operations missions by:

  • conducting airfield or assault zone reconnaissance, assessment, and control
  • providing immediate emergency trauma medical treatment and patient retrieval as well as combat search-and rescue when directed.

The 720th STG also provides long-range operational and logistics planning and deploys command and control elements during Special Tactics force employment or deployment. Lastly, it functions as the command's proponent for military parachuting, diving, and other Special Tactics related matters.

These forces also position navigational aids and target designation equipment and control offensive fire systems, either in permissive or hostile environments.

The 720th STG ensures special tactics forces are organized, trained and equipped to provide a combat ready force. This includes utilization of mission unique skills involving parachuting techniques of low altitude static line, free-fall high altitude low opening (HALO) and high-altitude high-opening (HAHO) procedures; amphibious and aquatic employment methods to include combat diving and combat rubber raiding craft; rough terrain motorcycles, specialized four-wheel drive vehicles, and fast rope/rappelling from helicopters.

Special Tactics personnel are skilled in demolitions, weapons, air traffic control, small unit tactics, trauma medical response, communications, and forward weather observation. Special Tactics teams routinely employ in support of contingencies and humanitarian aid missions worldwide.

Specialized Training

After enlistment and completion of Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, candidates spend the next year in rigorous training at various schools. Less than 1% of all USAF recruits even begin to qualify for the rigorous demands and challenges in store for the Combat Control Specialty. Only about 20% of the trainees earn the right to wear the distinctive scarlet beret of a Combat Controller. Fledgling Combat Controllers are assigned to Hurlburt Field after eight months of training at various schools. Before beginning AST each trainee will have completed Air Traffic Control School, Combat Control School, Army Airborne School and Air Force Basic Survival School. Combat Control Officers combine the skills of Air Traffic Control with special operations and special forces.

Those who enlist for six years receive a $6,000 bonus and accelerated promotion to E-4 in two years. And those who decide to reenlist after this 6 year duty committment may be eligible to receive an additional bonus of approximately $30,000.

Combat Control/Pararescue Selection Lackland Air Force Base, Texas 12 weeks
Special Forces Combat Diver Key West Naval Air Station, Florida 5 weeks
U.S. Army Basic Airborne Fort Benning, Georgia 3 weeks
U.S. Army Basic Military Freefall Fort Bragg, North Carolina 4 weeks
U.S. Air Force Combat Survival Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington 3 weeks
U.S. Air Force Air Traffic Control Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi 16 weeks
Combat Control Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina 12 weeks

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:15:00 ZULU