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In the Air Force, there are only a handful of career fields that are special operations career fields. TACP or Tactical Air Control Party is one of them. Knowing TACP is Air Force special operations, you might be considering it as a job choice and wonder “what do they do exactly?”

What Is TACP

What is TACP and what does TACP do in the Air Force? The name stands for Tactical Air Control Party and is pronounced “TAC-P”. The Air Force Specialty Code (1C4X1) are involved in various special operations missions typically assisting the Army in combat environments. Theses airmen need a security clearance of “secret” on up to “top secret”. For a lack of a better term Tactical Air Control Party airmen are a group badasses.

In the Air Force, TACP does everything from engaging enemy forces as a battlefield airman, direct air strikes in close proximity to friendly forces (in other terms, offers close air support), and directs surface to surface fires and air to surface fires. Air Force TACP communicates with both aircraft and ground vehicles to support military members on the ground. In doing so these battlefield airmen often operate outside of a deployed Airbase or Army installation.

This special ops career field is a demanding job, if you are not deployed down range then you are continually training for the next time you do go on a deployment. The TACP motto says it all “100% and then some!”

The Tactical Air Control Party job is a volunteer only career field and many who attempt the initial training don’t make the cut and pass. The Air Force TACP washout rate has been an issue with such intense standards for the job.

How Long Is TACP Training?

Tech school TACP training is broken up into chunks. Training is in multiple locations and states, so expect to go through different phases of training. Initial prep training and conditioning before TACP training is performed, learning Tactical Air Control Party fundamentals, followed by specific training like survival training. Even after receiving your apprentice 3-level from completing tech school, on the job training continues. TACP is always in a state of training or doing refresher training in order to be and stay deployable.

However, when wanting to know how long is TACP training in tech school? You can expect the following.

After 8 weeks of basic training, some of the tech school training consists of:

1 week of TACP Prep Course at Lackland AFB, Texas.

106 days of TACP Apprentice Course at Lackland AFB, Texas.

3 weeks of Air Force Basic Survival School at Fairchild AFB, Washington.

The 3 weeks of Air Force Basic Survival School is also known as SERE training. SERE stands for survival, evasion, resistance, escape. As one of the TACP requirements, some of the things learned throughout SERE training are how to survive in various situations and outdoor environments, learning to use maps and understand topography/terrain, and psychological effects of given situations.

Added extensive resources – SERE training handbook

Additionally, some tech school airmen will be selected for further training as well:

3 weeks Basic Airborne Course at Ft. Bennings, Georgia.

This additional tech school training is to assist with Army airborne operations being that most Tactical Air Control Party airmen will be operating in Army missions.

Additional TACP Training

In order to progress through the 1C4X1 Air Force career field and obtain a 5 level journeyman badge, first JTAC has to be completed. JTAC stands for joint terminal attack controller and is CAS (close air support) training. As a battlefield airman, JTAC is completed in order to be knowledgeable and safe down range on deployments. As well as being a requirement to be combat mission ready.

There are two phases of JTAC training, initial qualification training, and mission qualification training. JTAC initial qualification training is formal schoolhouse instructions and training. While JTAC mission qualification training is practical field training.

Training starts with 4 weeks of JTAC qualification course at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

New 1C431 Air Force Tactical Air Control Party airmen are able to begin Joint Terminal Attack Controller initial qualification training anytime but must complete JTAC mission qualification training within 18 months from the date assigned to a duty station. After initial qualification training is completed, mission qualification training begins and will be completed in 90 calendar days.

Training consists of:

-Tactical training including the use of live ordnance and threat simulators.

-Artillery, mortar, rotary-wing attack helicopter, and AC-130 gunship tactics, techniques, and procedures.

-Suppression of enemy air defenses tactics, techniques, and procedures.

-Infiltration and exfiltration tactics, techniques, and procedures.

-Digitally-aided, day, night, mounted, and dismounted close air support tactics, techniques, and procedures.

TACP requirements: JTAC training is a requirement for Tactical Air Control Party airmen. After two failed attempts to complete JTAC, Commanders will potentially consider disqualifying you from the career field. The mission of TACP airmen is not taken lightly.

Current TACP Fitness Test: Tier 2 Fitness Test

Special Ops in the Air Force is among the best of the best. Many Air Force special ops jobs work alongside other branches of combat military members like the Marines and Army. So if you desire to be a member of the ranks, expect to go through some tough training to get there.

If you want to be a TACP airman you have to get through the PAST fitness test, the basic training fitness test, and now TACP has their own tier 2 fitness standards as well. This goes above and beyond the regular Air Force PT test. So, if you intend to be TACP expect to train hard throughout every level of Air Force fitness testing.

For completing the initial TACP requirements in tech school, you will be awarded your 3 level apprentice badge. After receiving the Tactical Air Control Party 3 level badge you become exempt from the regular Air Force PT test. However, a separate TACP fitness test has been adopted. In the tier 2 fitness test, you no longer perform traditional push-ups and sit-ups. While push-ups have been removed, there still is a variation of sit-ups performed.

The TACP fitness test is measured on 10 main exercises.

  1. Grip strength
  2. 20lb medicine ball toss, back and side
  3. Two cone drill
  4. Trap bar deadlift, 5 rep max
  5. Pull-up
  6. Lunges weighted 50lb
  7. Extended cross knee crunch
  8. Farmer’s carry 100lb 100 yards
  9. Row ergometer 1000 meter
  10. Run 1.5 mile

Grip Strength – To measure grip strength a handheld device will be squeezed to measure PSI (pounds per square inch). Each hand will be tested and the best score is totaled. The minimum PSI allowed is 108 PSI.

Medicine Ball Toss – Two variations of the 20lb medicine ball toss will be tested. The back toss and the side toss. To perform the back toss the medicine ball is thrown over and behind your head. The side toss is performed standing with your dominant foot in front. Your body is positioned at a side angle while throwing the medicine ball forward.

The toss is measured in feet distance, totaling both the back toss and the side toss together to have a total score. The minimum allowable total distance tossed is 33.5 feet.

Two Cone Drill – The two cone drill is a timed maneuver sprinting back and forth between cones 15 feet apart.

Start position is laying on the ground, stomach to the ground. The timer starts when you push yourself up. From starting at cone A sprint to cone B 15 feet away, touching the ground beyond the cone, then sprint back to cone A and touch the ground. Change direction and sprint back to cone B and rounding the cone counter-clockwise keeping it on your left shoulder. From there sprint to cone A and round the cone clockwise keeping the cone to your right shoulder. Then sprint to cone B, touch the ground and back peddle in reverse to cone A to stop timer.

The minimum allowable time is 10.7 seconds.

Trap Bar Deadlift 5 Rep Max – While doing the deadlift movement gloves, weight belts, and wrist wraps are not allowed.

Pull-ups – Perform pull-ups to failure. The minimum allowable total is 11 pull-ups.

Lunges w/ weighted 50lb sandbag – To perform the lunge exercise a 50lb sandbag will be held behind your head on the shoulders. Plus when doing the lunge movement expect to match your cadence with a metronome sounding at 56 beats per minute. If you are unable to keep sync with the metronome beat the test will end. Do the 50lb weighted lunges to muscular failure or out of sync with the metronome.

Minimum allowable reps 43.

Extended Cross Knee Crunch – This exercise is also performed with a metronome beating at 56 beats per minute. Do each rep in cadence to the metronome beat. If the cadence is not matched for two or more reps the exercise is over.

Lie on your back, legs straight, arms crossed, and hands locked completely under armpits. Your hands must remain under the armpits for the test duration. Slide your feet in while bringing the torso upwards and your left elbow across your body to reach the top of your right knee. Then return to the starting position. That is one rep. Alternate sides until muscle failure or failure to match cadence.

Minimum allowable reps 39.

Farmers Carry 100lb 100 yards – Each hand will carry a 50lb sandbag while running and maneuvering back and forth between two cones spaced 25 yards apart. Run the length 4 times for a total of 100 yards while holding the two 50lb sandbags.

Minimum allowable time is 30.1 seconds.

Row Ergometer 1000 meters – The rowing machine will have a drag of 130 plus or minus 1. Row 1000 meters in the shortest amount of time possible.

Minimum allowable time is 3:57

Run 1.5 miles – To pass the 1.5 mile run, the minimum allowable completion time is 11:31.

While the 9 other components of the tier 2 fitness test have to be completed together, the 1.5 mile run can be completed up to 72 hours before or after the other TACP fitness test components.

The TACP workout and fitness is a demanding part of the job which must be maintained for all Tactical Air Control Party airmen. TACP training matters when lives are at risk, to prepare for the 1C4X1 career field consider adding a TACP daily workout routine into the mix.

First Duty Station

TACP battlefield airmen are traditionally tasked with assisting Army missions. Following suit, many Tactical Air Control Party members are stationed primarily on Army installations. As an Airman First Class going to your first duty station, here are the potential bases to be stationed at. 

Ft Benning, GA

Ft Bliss, TX

Ft Bragg/Pope AFB, NC

Ft Campbell, KY

Ft Carson, CO

Ft Drum, NY

Ft Hood, TX

Ft Polk, LA

Ft Riley, KS

Ft Stewart, GA

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA

Camp Red Cloud, ROK

Ft Wainwright, AK

JBER, AK

Osan AB, ROK

Wheeler AFB, HI

Camp Ederle, IT

Vilseck, GE

Related article: 4 Ways To Get Stationed At Your Desired Air Force Base

To Wrap It Up

Becoming a TACP airman is a rewarding challenge if you want to go into Air Force special operations. The Tactical Air Control Party life is continuously in a state of training for deployments or having boots on the ground in a deployed location. Battlefield airmen find themselves rubbing elbows with the best of the best. Will you be among them?

Do you have what it takes to become “100% and then some!”? Start training like a TACP.

Corey Porter

Corey Porter

Air Force Veteran

Corey is an Air Force veteran and the lead writer at Basic to Blues. He refueled fighter jets as a young airman and deployed twice to the Middle East. Now Corey can be found hiking in the Pacific Northwest.

Who the hell… POL!

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