“I’ve been pushed to my breaking point sinceI’ve been here,” said Eric Ramsauer. “But it’s shown me what I need to do to be where I want to be in the future.”

Ramsauer is one of the 20 Civil Air Patrol cadets who participated in a weeklong Combat Control Orientation Course in which they are completely immersed into the life of an Air Force combat controller.

“The whole idea of the course is to introduce the Air Force combat control field to these students, both cadets and Civil Air Patrol officers, one – to see if it’s a career interest to them, but really just to show them there is a wider world out there than they’ve ever realized,” explained Lt. Col. David Siemiet, responsible for developing the course. “Most people think about Air Force and they think pilots, which is great, it’s fine, but there’s much more to the Air Force. And at the same time it’s about enforcing teamwork, what the standards are, self-discipline, self-responsibility and building leadership skills and self worth.  We’re building them as young adults and it’s a great frame work to do it in.”

Beginning on Sunday, cadets are inprocessed into the Combat Control Orientation Course at Pope Field. From the second they step foot on the facility’s grounds, they belong to the skilled and experienced instructors of the course. From the early morning rigorous physical fitness training with qualified combat controllers, to the various classes and training they received up to the evening hours when they are released to their tents, cadets live the life of a special tactics Airman.

“The PT in the morning is tough and we’ve gotten into trouble a couple of times, but as a team we’ve work together and pushed through,” explained Ramsauer. “It’s really great to see the instructors get out there with us and do exactly what we’re doing. It makes us know it’s accomplishable.”

To even be considered a candidate for the course, cadets have several perquisites that they must meet. They must be at least 15 years old, be a staff sergeant or higher and be able to pass a physical fitness test according to the Air Force standard for special operations Airmen.

Over 150 applicants from across the country apply, but only 20 cadets are selected for the course. Upon being selected, cadets are expected to complete courses familiarizing them with how combat controllers work and accomplish the tasks given them.
Students are given advanced airborne training, which includes static line training and high altitude/wind tunnel experience.
Cadets learn about air traffic control through simulators and get to tour the dive facilities of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron. They also qualify on various military weapons.

“Definitely completing the rifle range and the wind tunnel training have been my highlights of the course,” said Ramsauer. “I’ve shot rifles before, but working with military grade weapons and how they work was great.”

Ramsauer’s goal is to become some sort of special operations military member, whether it’s as a Navy Seal or as a combat controller.

“What I’ve learned the most while being here is to never quit,” said Ramsauer, an 18 year-old, recent high school graduate from New Fairfield, Conn. “Never give up your goals and dreams. If you put your mind to it, anything is possible.”