top of page

Combat Control History

Combat Control Teams evolved from Army Pathfinders originating in 1943 out of the need for accurate airdrops during airborne campaigns of World War II. These pathfinders preceded main assault forces into objective areas to provide weather information and visual guidance to inbound aircraft through the use of high-powered lights, flares and smoke pots.

When the Air Force became a separate service, Air Force Pathfinders, later called Combat Control Teams, were activated in 1953 to provide navigational aids and air traffic control for a growing Air Force. In the Vietnam War, combat controllers helped assure mission safety and expedited air traffic flow during countless airlifts. Combat controllers also flew as forward air guides in support of indigenous forces in Laos and Cambodia.

Combat Controllers continue to be “First There” when they are called upon to participate in direct action intervention, international emergencies and humanitarian relief efforts.

CCT IN WORLD WAR II THROUGH VIETNAM, CAMBODIA, AND BEYOND

Following WWII and the heritage created by the Pathfinders, the establishment of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service on 18 September 1947 brought organizational changes resulting in tactical airlift and aerial port squadrons assuming responsibility for support of the U.S. Army ground forces. Air Force pathfinder teams, later called Combat Control Teams, were activated in January of 1953 to provide navigational aids and air traffic control for the growing airlift forces.

Since their activation, combat controllers have made many contributions to Air Force operations worldwide. Combat controllers participated and distinguished themselves in the Southeast Asia conflict including the evacuation of Vietnam and Cambodia, in the Lebanon crisis (Jul- Oct ’58), the Congo crisis (Jul-Oct ’60), the Cuban crisis (Sep ’62), the China-India confrontation (Nov ’62 – Sep ’63), the Dominican Republic contingency, through today's global war on terror.

CCT IN TODAYS WAR ON GLOBAL TERROR

Combat controllers were a part of the pre-strike buildup of the United Nation coalition during operation Desert Shield, and heavily involved in the air traffic control, air-to-ground operations, and assault actions that liberated Kuwait from Iraq during the ensuing Desert Storm campaign. Combat controllers also provided extensive air traffic control for the airlift that provided humanitarian relief to Kurdish refugees fleeing into northern Iraq.

Out of the 11 Air Force Crosses awarded since the Global War on Terror started in 2001, 8 have been awarded to Combat Controllers for extraordinary heroism in combat.

The Ranger chopper that was shot down while landing on the peak of Takur Ghar, Afghanistan
Master Sergeant John A. Chapman snow gear cut out

MSgt John Chapman, USAF Combat Controller is the first airman to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in combat since The Vietnam War.

Combat Control Historical Missions

This section will be updated regularly.

Operation JUNCTION CITY

The Vietnam War

February 22, 1967

Operation UNIFIED RESPONSE

Humanitarian

January 13, 2010

Operation DRAGON ROUGE

Cold War

November 24, 1964

JONESTOWN

Humanitarian

November 18, 1978

The Battle of Najaf

Operation Iraqi Freedom

January 28, 2007

Operation JUST CAUSE

Cold War

December 20, 1989

Operation VARSITY

World War II

March 24, 1945

SSM citation.jpg

Acts of
Valor

 Combat controllers saluting a fallen comrade

Remember our
Fallen Heroes

bottom of page