PINEVILLE, La. (KALB) - On Saturday, a handful of guys hit the pavement at Camp Beauregard for a shot at becoming a Tactical Air Control Party or TACP in the Louisiana Air National Guard's 122nd Air Support Operations Squadron.
Specialist Raymond Schindler III, an engineer in the Louisiana National Guard takes a physical fitness test at Tactical Air Control Party try-outs at Camp Beauregard over the weekend. (KALB)
TACP specialists are highly trained airmen who provide close air support from the front lines for ground combat around the world.
Aspiring TACPs took the Physical Abilities Stamina Test or PAST Saturday morning. It consisted of running a mile and a half in under 10:47, and completing six pull-ups, 47 sit-ups and 40 push-ups each in two-minute intervals.
However, passing the PAST is just the beginning. Unit training instructor Captain Daniel Stacks said just 25% of candidates survive the nearly two-year training commitment for Joint Terminal Air Controllers or JTACs.
Cpt. Stacks explained that like any special operations unit, TACP requires a skill-set that is hard to find.
"Being able to perform without sleep, no set schedule, eating erratically, just not knowing what time of day it is..forward with an army unit under fire is when you need to perform so we test them to that standard and then some," he said.
Louisiana National Guard Specialist Raymond Schindler III said he started preparing for the PAST three months ago. When he enlisted in the Air Force at 17, he said he was too impatient and switched to the Army National Guard to ship off to boot camper sooner. At 22-years-old, Spc. Schindler III said now he has the maturity and discipline to face the challenge of joining this close-knit unit.
"They're (122nd ASOS) all like a family over here," he said. "I've been around them. I go over there and train with them a little bit," said Spc. Schindler III who works on Camp Beauregard full-time. They will push you and push you to your max and that's what I want, to test my limits. So I gave it all I've got."
So far he's on track and as Spc. Schindler III gets closer to his goal, Cpt. Stacks will be there to guide him through the gauntlet.
"Showing up is the first key," Cpt. Stacks said. "Most people are scared, they say they can't handle it...(but) that esprit de corps and that drive and to get them to where they understand and can pass a very difficult job is a very rewarding process."
Spc. Schindler III added that his father, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel is also gunning for him, "He said 'about time! I told you you'd get tired of the army!'"