What is the AF doing to meet the demand for JTACs, in both conventional and SOF applications, as CCT increasingly drifts back to their doctrinal mission? I would assume, in my limited knowledge, Big Blue is emphasizing the recruitment of more TACPs and development of additional ST TACPs. Is this the case?
I am more curious, however, what solutions you and your guys in the career field have developed and believe the AF should implement.
The AF is doing what they can, but the TACP pipeline has a historical attrition rate of 70%. CCT is high as well, although I don't know the exact number for them. The Schoolhouse moved from Hurlburt to Lackland so they could put more people through training each year, but we're talking relatively small numbers still. My class started with 36 guys, and 7 of us graduated without a recycle. Then you have to make a guy a JTAC. The AF implemented an 18 month time limit from starting training to graduating JTAC QC, and they also re-coded all the 1C4 billets as JTAC billets. Before, squadrons had a cap on JTACs, as some slots were coded for ROMADs. We have done away with the concept of the TAC team, as it doesn't make a lot of sense. It further limited our ability to provide support. The Guard brought a JTAC QC online to facilitate getting more Guard guys through in a shorter amount of time. Again though, we're still talking about a relatively small increase in numbers overall.
The SOF TACP community is recruiting more heavily, but to little effect so far. There are only a small handful of slots at each STS for TACPs, minus the 17th STS which is TACP only. The general perception most guys have is that the 17th is the only STS worth being at as a TACP though. So a lot of guys think it's not worth putting in a package to try and cross over. The reviews of being a TACP at a 2-series STS are mixed.
There has been talk forever about bringing all the TACPs under the AFSOC umbrella, but I don't see it ever happening. The conventional Army needs us more than the SOF dudes do. The Army has threatened before to stop using TACPs and just start making their own JTACs in house, but that will also never happen. The Ranger Regiment, and the SF Regiment, make their own, but that's a different animal. The Army has proven unable to manage the JFO program effectively, so there's no way they could manage a JTAC program.
Been out of the TACP career field for several years, but one of the best things they have done recently is to make JTAC a 5-level requirement. To explain for the non-USAF, making something a 5-level requirement basically means that it's a career field requirement. Essentially, when a new TACP reports to his first assignment getting JTAC qualified is a priority and requirement. That should help the numbers and morale. The old ROMAD position should have been done away decades ago IMO. A major reason I cross-trained out of TACP was because of the ROMAD position and how difficult it was to get ETAC -- which later was changed to JTAC -- training. The TACP career field's previous training program was horrendous. It took years to get JTAC qualified not because it was difficult but because the training program was so poorly managed. Get stuck with a supervisor who wasn't JTAC qualified, well then you're not getting any or very little JTAC training during that time. Bust your balls to get everything done to attend JFCC/JTACQC, well the unit only has three slots this year and they go to NCO cross-trainees with slightly less time in the career field than you have. Anyway, a little bit of a rant but making JTAC a requirement for every TACP will definitely boost JTAC numbers and speed up JTAC training.
CCT doesn't have the mandatory requirement for JTAC, but it does seem that they really push it. They even seem to push it above ATC tower certification which would be more beneficial for their doctrinal mission, although still not necessary to successfully do austere airfield control or LZ/DZ control. I'm currently in ATC and whenever I ask CCTs I know if they want to send anyone to the tower for certification it's usually a quick no. The training is too long and they can't spare someone from the career field for it. JTAC vs ATC certification seems to still be the priority for CCT, so that should lead to increased JTAC production on their end. This is just my observation, so I certainly welcome any corrections to my perception.
Eventually I'll get around to being vetted, sorry for the laziness....