Training day 84 of 84 - graduation for TACP Falcon Flight 86

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Stacy Fowler
  • 1st Special Operation Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This article is part of a series detailing the trials and tribulations of the students of Tactical Air Control Party class Falcon 86 on their journey to become fully qualified Battlefield Airmen.

After 84 days and nights of grueling training, Tactical Air Control Party trainees in Falcon Flight 86 had to overcome one last hurdle before they could claim their black berets May 3, 2011: the graduation ceremony speeches.

Luckily, speeches were kept short for the ceremony, and 22 TACP graduates - 14 original members out of 32, with an additional eight from previous teams - bloused their blues pants and slid their black berets onto their heads.

"In the beginning, the failures outweighed the successes," said Staff Sgt. Zachary Atkinson, TACP instructor and master of ceremonies. "But eventually, they came together to form the solid team you see before you today. Each one of these men will leave here with memories they will carry for a lifetime. Some were etched through the pain and struggle it took to push beyond their limits and find success; others created by the overwhelming feeling of success that can only be shared by a close-knit team of brothers."

During the 84 training days, TACP students learned a wide range of skills, including portable radio communications, combat field skills, day and night land navigation and many others skills that will be employed and hardened during their careers.

"These gentlemen are the pointy end of the spear for our airborne missions," said Col. Peter Donnelly, 18th Air Support Operations Group commander, Pope Air Force Base, N.C. "Airborne firepower does nothing without these Airmen. And this school provides skills for those who populate my squadron and who will deploy downrange."

The life of a TACP, Colonel Donnelly said, may not be a safe one, but they will be well taken care of at home and abroad.

"These men will soon have to go out and conduct missions, sometimes highly dangerous ones, to complete our nation's objectives," he said. "But we will further prepare them for what they will see and do once they arrive at their units. For today, the key message here is that you should be very proud of these men and everything they have accomplished. They worked incredibly hard to get here."

And pride is in ready supply on graduation day.

"Even though I couldn't watch them doing the confidence course, and I cry sometimes thinking about him going on missions, I am so proud of him," said Darcy Mowery, mother of recent TACP graduate Airman 1st Class Jerrod Mowery. "I brag about him all the time!"

Graduates also had a chance to brag a bit as they showed their loved ones some of the gear they used and the weight they had to carry for the ruck marches. Overall, the graduating flight members were glad school was out and it was finally time to get started as a real TACP.

"We put a lot of time, blood, sweat and tears into this training - not to mention the 0400 mornings leading into the super-late nights of preparation and training," said Airman 1st Class Burton Ferguson, a Falcon Flight 86 graduate. "I am so ready to get to my unit, put my skills to use and bring the fight to the enemy."