U.S.A.F. Combat Control
The U.S.A.F. Combat Controllers are tasked with guiding aircraft into unimproved or recently liberated airfields. In addition, they may make temporary fields for use by aircraft, cutting trees or in some cases removing mines from the potential landing site. They may also have to remove obstacles placed on airfields.
Combat controllers can use HALO and HAHO techniques, SCUBA, ATVs, or plain old walking in to infiltrate an area before a large drop to set up and mark the drop zone. If an airfield was to be seized by an airborne drop, Combat Controllers would jump with the assaulting force to set up as an on-site friendly ATC to guide in incoming transports that would be used to resupply and strengthen the airfield assault force.
A mobile Air Traffic Control; USAF Combat Controllers were responsible for much of the air traffic around temporary airfields in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. In the UN actions within Somalia, Combat Control members from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron were responsible for "air space management and air traffic control and terminal guidance" for 72 hours during Operation United Shield in Mogadishu. During that time they oversaw over 150 aircraft sorties from the airport.
The Combat Controllers can trace their linage back to the USAAC's Pathfinders in WWII, but their real history began in the Vietnam War, when a small group was attached to General Vang Pao's forces that were fighting the N. Vietnamese incursion into Laos. Although Air Force politics caused them to pull out, the original Combat Controllers were able to provide good FAC for the Hmong soldiers while they were there.
Starting in the late 1980's the Combat Controllers were more closely associated with the
Pararescue Teams of the Air Force and formed into units called the Special Tactics Groups. Combat Controllers also train and train with members of many foreign nations.
Combat Controllers have been very active in US actions. They took place most recently in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and the Philippine Islands. Before that they were deployed in actions in Somolia, the Persian Gulf, and Panama.