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Air Force Combat Controllers -- the 'silent professionals'

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Published on May 8, 2014

By DELAINE MATHIEU
News 4 San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO -- They are among the most elite members of special operations forces in the world, yet most people have never heard of them. They're the USAF Combat Controllers, and they're trained right here in San Antonio. They call themselves the Silent Professionals.

A Combat Controller's primary job is to help locate and destroy enemy targets by communicating with the eyes in the sky. During covert missions, it's a Combat Controller's job to tell pilots which targets to take out and where, where to drop supplies, and where to land for evacuations.

"We carry the M4 magazines, fragmentation grenades, smoke grenades, an M203 grenade launcher, a medical pouch, GPS," Ssgt. Sean Hasell said. "But the biggest gun we carry is a radio."

Combat Controllers have the ability to destroy anything within a matter of minutes. Combat Controller TSgt. Marc Esposito is an instructor for the 342nd Training Squadron at Lackland AFB. He says Combat Controllers have been a part of every major conflict and operation.

They were there in The Battle of Mogadishu in '93, better known as Black Hawk Down, and they were there for the capture Osama Bin Laden. But most people don't know they even exist.

"We don't typically advertise it all that much or our capabilities, but it's there," TSgt. Esposito told us. "And as quiet professionals, we like to just be there for the fight."

At any given time, there only 300 to 500 of them in the world, mainly because the pipeline to becoming one is long, nearly three years.
The training in and out of the classroom is also brutal. It's hours of grueling physical training every single day -- harder and more intense than basic training -- in the hot Texas sun and bitterly cold temps. They also spend hours training in the pool and in the air, sky diving.

Since the CCT is expected to join a special forces team at any moment for a mission, they must be as trained as all of them: a SEAL, a Ranger, a Green Beret. Up to 90-percent of the men who try to become a CCT never make it.

"We push guys so hard, sometimes the tears do come," SSgt. Dale Young said. "They've just never experienced that before, and they've been pushed harder than they've ever been pushed before in their entire lives."

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