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Air Force Special Warfare - PJ, CCT, SERE, EOD, SR, TACP

stew smith

Ever thought about getting little more out of your Air Force career? Or have you ever thought about risking your life to save another? Or going behind enemy lines before anyone else to set on a drop zone / air field and help call in fire support to troops who need it? These are just some of the missions of the Air Force Special Tactics- the PJs, or pararescue, and CCT or Combat Control Technician. The PJs are responsible for providing emergency and life-saving services to airmen, soldiers and civilians in both peacetime and combat environments. When a plane goes down in the jungle or ocean, it is the PJs who are there to find and save the pilots and crew. Pararescuemen truly live up to their motto, "That Others May Live."

The United States Air Force has evolved significantly in the last two decades to fill a need with Special Operations on the ground in combat areas as well as other harsh environments and weather conditions around the world.  As technology evolves so does the training.  As the enemy evolves so do the Special Operations Community as well as the conventional forces of our military.  The Air Force is in a unique position with special operations boots on the ground forces supported by multi-million / billion dollar air assets to bring essentials to the combat threat.  Having a force of elite airmen on the ground is essential to future enemy threats on a global scale.  

The Air Force Special Ops world is changing.  Mostly, the changes are in name of the special ops personnel, but the process to recruit, prepare, and train these elite groups of airmen is also changing.  After Basic Military Training (BMT), you will attend the new Air Force Special Warfare Prep Course (formerly known as Battlefield Airman Prep Course).  However, before you ever leave for Basic, you will have some training and early preparation prior to departing BMT.  While in the Delayed Entry Program, a group of former Air Force Special Ops trainers and mentors will make sure you are meeting the standard before you depart for BMT. See the official site to find local trainers, mentors, and recruiters to help you prepare for Air Force Special Warfare jobs such as Pararescue, Combat Controller, Tactical Air Control Party, SERE, Special Recon (SR), and EOD.

Air Force Special Warfare Prep Course is for the formerly named “Battlefield Airmen” and is an eight week course designed for BMT graduates who have selected the PJ, CCT, SR, or TACP career field. Its purpose is to assist rebuilding an elevated physical level after BMT and adequately prepare these new Airmen for the following pipelines of Special Ops training.

You will learn to swim long before you arrive to the Prep Course – not only a fast PAST Test method, but also swimming with fins using the side stroke “Lead Arm / Trail Arm” Method. This is moving through the water staying on your side only kicking with Rocket or Jet type SCUBA fins.   Here are the minimum standards you must meet to qualify for the Air Force Special Warfare program that vary from Specialty Code (job):

Minimum Initial Fitness Test (IFT/PST) for Air Force Special Warfare and Navy Special Warfare (SEALS)


PJ, CCT, SR, TACP Scores

Pullups 2 min


Situps 2min


Pushups 2 min


1.5 mile run


2 x 25m u/w swim


500m swim


The most important similarity with the PT Test and the follow on training programs is you cannot be a good student with these minimum standards. These are JUST MINIMUM standards however, no one makes it through on minimum standards.  You need to be better. In fact, I personally would strive for the following standards on either test:

500yd / 500m swim – 8:20 (a meter or yard per second pace)
Pushups 80+
Situps 80+
Pullups 20+
1.5 mile run – 9 minutes or less

NOTE: The PAST requirements are designed to test for a minimum fitness level for entry into the various training pipelines. Candidates should continue to train throughout their application process to exceed these minimums in order to enhance their chances of success.


    Here are the Prep Course Evaluation Standards you will meet throughout the Prep Course.

    Pull Ups  10

    Push Ups  55

    Sit Ups 55

    3 Mile Run 21:21

    1000 meter fin (L.A.T.A.) 20:00 (Lead Arm / Trail Arm Side Stroke)

    Yes, you will be called something different that “Battlefield Airmen”.  You are now going to be part of Air Force Special Warfare (AFSW).  This is very similar to other Special Operations Command names:  Naval Special Warfare, Army Special Warfare Center and School though they officially are Army Special Operations Command.

    Training should not change even though the minimums standards have changed a few times in the past years. Still strive for competitive IFT scores as mentioned above, but also know that you will be tested in many pool skills, longer runs, and longer swims with fins.  There will be rucking and other load bearing exercises involved in your training as well.  It goes back to the first two phases of tactical training in order to get TO the training by acing the IFT, but also giving yourself enough time preparing to get THROUGH the training prior to joining the Air Force. 

    The CCTs are FAA certified air traffic controllers and responsible for conducting all types of missions behind enemy lines while setting air fields, calling in fire support while working jointly with Army SF, Navy SEALs, etc. The CCT motto is "First There" as they prep the air fields and drop zones for other troops to follow.

    The PAST - Physical Ability and Stamina Test Now the Initial Fitness Test (IFT)

    To become a PJ or CCT you must be a proficient swimmer, meet physical standards of the new IFT. This job is open to only enlisted troops. Here are the specifics minimums to becoming a PJ and Combat Control tech but the numbers in the parenthesis are recommended scores from Spec Ops trainers:

    After BMT, you will attend Air Force Special Warfare Prep Course which will help you better prepare for the challenging selection programs in an effort to reduce attrition rates.  Once in the PJ Candidate Course, you will be challenged physically for ten weeks in Lackland AFB, Texas. The first phase is known as Team Training and is 8 weeks long. It consists of extensive physical training with swimming, running, weight training, calisthenics and obstacle courses. Educational training such as medical and diving terminology, CPR, weapons qualifications, and dive physics are also part of the Candidate Course.

    After the Candidate Course there are two different professions with two different pipelines (but similar) to follow depending on if you want to be a PJ or CCT. Here is the PJ and CCT pipeline of training:

    US Army Airborne School - 3 weeks
    US Army Combat Divers School - 4 weeks
    US Navy Underwater Egress Training - 1 day
    US Air Force Basic Survival School - 2.5 weeks
    US Army Free-fall Parachutist School - 5 weeks

    PJ Pipeline Different Schools
    Special Operations Combat Medic Course - 22 weeks
    Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course - 20 weeks

    CCT Pipeline Different Schools
    Combat Control Orientation Course, Lackland AFB, Texas -10 days
    Combat Control Operator Course - 15.5 weeks
    Combat Control School - 12 weeks

    For more info see the Official AF Site: AFPJ and CCT

    Training is extremely challenging both physically and mentally, but if you graduate and wear the maroon beret (PJ) or the scarlet beret (CCT), you will be one of the most highly trained combat medics in the world, able to handle the most stressful situations with ease. Hats off to those who risk their lives to be the "First There" so "That Others May Live."

    (New Updates for IFT and OFT)

    Download the E-book NOW with the Air Force PJ / CCT Workout or order it in the PRINTED Version. This is a preparatory workout that will prepare you for the challenges of the swimming, running, PT of PJ training as well as the physical training of CCT to include PT, running, ruck marching,etc.. NEW addition is the Operator Fitness Test (OFT) workout section that you will take once in the pipeline. 

    If you are looking at focusing your training on the other PAST that include running, pushups, situps, pullups, see the PFT Bible for Training Ideas. 

    If you have questions - please ask -

    Which Program is Right For Me - Special Ops Candidates 

    Who Is The Tactical Fitness Coach / Author Stew Smith?

     I'm the former Navy SEAL that military recruits and special ops candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

    Check out the Complete List of Training Programs (Spec Ops, Military, Police, Fire)

    We Have Answers For Beginners to Advanced Spec Ops Level Training Programs (see below)



    DO NOT RELY ON THE MILITARY TO GET YOU INTO SHAPE AT BASIC TRAINING.  You will get into better shape for sure during your training if you arrive in lower fitness form, but you need to arrive with a foundation of physical fitness that is specific to your future job in the military / fitness tests / training. If you show up out of shape, you could end up failing standards or injuring yourself causing longer delays or removal from training altogether. 

    For You Special Candidates (Get in Shape LONG Before You Join) 

    High Intermediate Military / Advanced Spec Ops
    Building Programming:

    Which Program is Right For Me?
    It Depends...Special Ops Candidates


    EBOOKS (Special Ops– Most of my programs tend to focus on getting TO and THROUGH a specific tactical training program.  So you may see a mix of all the seasons in some of these books, but if you are training long term, you can take advantage of Seasonal Periodization and save yourself some of the over-use, long term pains that tend to follow many of the tactical preparations - especially on the spec ops level of training. 

    Start training today with workouts that focus on the specifics of getting to and through tactical profession training from firefighter, police, swat, military to special ops. We have programs to help you get TO and THROUGH training. We also have training programs to help you with training as you age in these professions (Tactical Fitness 40+ series).


    Lifting Cycle Programs For Those Who Need a Strength Focus

    It is not all just calisthenics and cardio at Stew Smith Fitness

    Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, Navy SEAL Weight Training Workout, Weight Vest Workout,  Stew Smith's Fall Winter Cycle, Warrior Workout #2Maximum Fitness

    These programs as well as my online coaching programs have Winter Lift Cycles in them as part of our Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System. But, do not get these lift cycles confused with ACTUAL strength / power lifting programs, these are strength / power programs that also have a focus on cardio fitness maintenance BECAUSE you need to be good at all the elements of fitness and develop into an all-round Tactical Athlete.  

    Most Recent Spring / Summer & Fall Winter Programs:
    (click to read more)
    Or Do You Want my REAL TIME Seasonal Periodization Training - Delivered Weekly?


    Get Weekly Unpublished Workouts Tested and Evaluated by local Stew Smith Training programs. 

    Stew Smith Fitness Membership – You have access to years of workouts for both beginner / intermediate and advanced / special ops levels of fitness. Each week you will receive new and unpublished workouts being tested by Navy SEAL veteran / Stew Smith CSCS and his local group of future tactical professionals in both basic training and advanced spec ops training programming. The latest videos, articles, and other programming will be part of the weekly data feed to members as well. We go through the Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization program one week at a time.

    At - List of Products and Services

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    3. eBooks
    4. Books and eBooks in PRINT
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    • Stew on

      Yes – there is a group within each generation that give me hope for the future.

    • Jeff Boughner on

      My son is currently in the 8 week special warfare training course . It’s amazing what he tells me they are doing . This new course is a interesting way to groom these young men and women . I believe my boy said there were 2 women out of 140 involved in the course. It’s refreshing to know that there are still young patriotic individuals in the world still willing to protect our country. Even possibly give their life . I personally love every one of these warriors heading into the pipeline. Good bless them hooyah !!

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