USAF Tactical Air Control Party (TACP)

Posted by David Burnell on

TACP (pronounced TAC-P), is usually a team of two or more United States Air Force Tactical Air Controllers sometimes including an Air Liaison Officer (a qualified aviator), which is assigned to a U.S. Army combat maneuver unit, either conventional or special operational, to advise ground commanders on the best use of air power, establish and maintain command and control communications, control air traffic, act as an inter-service liaison, control naval gunfire, and provide precision terminal attack guidance of U.S. and coalition close air support and other air-to-ground aircraft.

Along with being assigned to all conventional Army combat units, TACP airmen are also attached to Special Forces, Navy SEALs, and Army Rangers, as well as Joint Special Operations Command units and multi-national Special Operations task forces, primarily as communications experts and precision airstrike controllers.

In addition, TACP members can be assigned to AFSOC Special Tactics Squadrons to train Air Force Combat Controllers, traditionally responsible for austere airfield Air Traffic Control, in the tactics, techniques, and procedures of Close Air Support control.

Enlisted members are known as ROMADs (formerly "Radio Operator, Maintainer & Driver," from their time as assistants to officer-only Forward Air Controllers. The acronym is now widely accepted as standing for "Recon, Observe, Mark & Destroy" in reflection of the modern role of the TAC).

TACP members wear black berets, with a distinctive Red, Blue, and Green cloth flash and silver crest, as seen to the right. Air Liaison Officers are authorized to wear the black beret, flash, and rank while assigned to a TACP unit, but not at any other point in their career.

Contrary to old doctrine, TACP FAC's, now called "JTAC's", are enlisted men that provide Close Air Support. Only a few officers were grandfathered into the FAC program; those few are the only officers remaining capable of providing Close Air Support.


The Forward Air Control mission dates back to World War II. Unfortunately information from that time period is sketchy. During Korea and Vietnam the Ground FAC mission came unto its own. During the Vietnam conflict, the role of the Forward Air Controller was redefined. Not always were they flying low over the jungle looking for targets.

Now they were on the ground, attached to ground maneuver units (The Army, Grunts, Foot Sloggers, Crunchies .. take your pick). Their mode of transport was the M-151 Ford jeep with a heavy communications pallet in place of the back seats. To keep this radio equipment in good working order a maintenance tech, a Radio Repairman was assigned to the "MRC-108 System". This ROMAD (Radio Operator, Maintainer And Driver, an enlisted guy usually an E2 or E3) was to assist a FAC (an officer, usually a Lieutenant or Captain) in getting around the country and more or less stay out of harms way in order to call in air strikes in support of the Unit that was under fire.

During the early years of this mission, the personnel who did it were not chosen because they were Gung-ho or highly motivated. It was their turn. Pure and simple. Some of the enlisted ROMADs made a name for themselves and others were just faces in the crowd.

A ROMAD is an Air Force enlisted man (no females or officers in this career field) assigned to an Army maneuver unit. Here's how it works. The US Air Force assigns ROMADs to the TACP (Tactical Air Control Party Flight). Our mission is to advise, assist, and control air assets in support of the US Army, usually in close proximity to friendly troops. In fact, the ROMADs primary mission is CAS (Close Air Support). ROMADs will move forward with a Scout or COLT team, locate and mark the target, and 'control' the CAS aircraft on the target.

Once you pass the psychological evaluation and initial PT test, you're off to Hurlburt Field, Florida for 14 weeks of fun in the sun (and mud). Here you will learn all of the basics of being a 1C4x1. You will learn a little about how the Army works and how to interact with them on an operational basis. Extensive training is given on a wide variety of communications equipment, including portable radios, and the GRC-206 communications pallet. Without communications, a ROMAD is useless. You will spend a few days on the range at Eglin Air Force Base learning field skills such as: navigation (day/night, individual/group, foot/vehicle), site selection, camouflage, evasion, and the fine art of The Road March. As well as, working at each stage of a Close Air Support mission.

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