Formerly designated as Tactical Air Command and Control, the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) specialty was first established in 1977, although Airmen serving in the role of Tactical Air Controllers dates back to 1948. Along with Combat Controllers, Pararescue, and Special Operations Weathermen specialists, TACP specialist are classified as Battlefield Airmen. In June, 2016, the Air Force activated the Battlefield Airmen Training Group, subordinate unit of the 37th Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

As part of the Air Force’s elite ground combat component, TACP specialists must meet stringent physical and psychological requirements to even begin the training process. These include meeting minimum scores on the TACP model of the Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System and passing the Battlefield Airman Physical Fitness Test at the recruiting and accession stages (it is also administered during training and before deployment).

Candidates who qualify to begin training first take the five-day TACP Preparatory Course, held at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, before moving on to the TACP Apprentice Course. Spanning nearly three months, the Apprentice Course is broken into three segments: Basic Knowledge, Ground Environment Training, and Air Support Coordination/Weapons Systems. Topics covered include site selection, bivouac setups, ground navigation (day and night), patrol techniques, utilizing Close Air Support, weapons utilization, and more. And like all Battlefield Airmen, TACP Specialists must complete the three-week Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape course held at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington.

These are the courses required to be awarded 1C431, TACP Apprentice. Other courses TACP specialists will take as their career progresses include Joint Terminal Attack Control (JTAC), Joint Air Tasking Order Process, Joint Computer Applications, and Air Support Operations Center Qualification. The JTAC qualification is at the heart of TACP operations, as they are tasked with directing airstrikes in close quarters; it can take between one and years to become JTAC-qualified from the time a TACP specialist has completed the requisite Apprentice training courses.

Because they are primarily assigned to U.S. Army installations and are operating outside established airbases and their attendant perimeter defenses, TACP are also highly trained in small-unit tactics, deployment and use of individual and crew-served weapons, GPS equipment and data links, battlefield first-aid techniques, and the utilization of chemical-warfare defensive equipment.

Only TACP specialists who have reached the 7-skill level (Craftsman) and have risen to the rank of Staff Sergeant qualify for Senior-level badges; Master-level badges require a rank of Master Sergeant and five years of duty at the 7-skill level or higher.

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