JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. —
The tactical air control party (TACP) Officer Phase Two (TOPT) assessment was held for the first time at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Washington, August 24 – 30.
The TOPT assessment evaluates a candidate’s potential to be successful at the TACP schoolhouse and as an officer in the TACP community.
“The five-day course is designed to put the candidates through physical and mentally stressful situations in order assess their leadership ability and leadership potential,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Travis Hunt, 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing chief of TACP officer accessions, and organizer of the TOPT assessment. “Candidates who are selected through this processs, enter the TACP training pipeline to eventually serve as a 13L, TACP officer.”
Although the TOPT assessment is held quarterly at a few different Air Force bases, this was the first time the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron (5 ASOS) on JBLM served as the hosting unit for phase two of the selection process for TACP officer candidates.
“TACP Officer Phase One of the selection process is solely administrative,” explained U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew McMurtry, 353rd Special Warfare Training Squadron director of operations and TOPT cadre lead. “A panel will review each candidate’s paperwork and select the 25 best candidates to continue onto TACP Officer Phase Two (TOPT).”
In phase two, TOPT, experienced TACP officer and enlisted cadre assess candidates throughout a week during 15 graded events that target the specific personality and character attributes that correlate with success in the TACP community. These events range from physically demanding ruck marches and physical training events to briefs and interviews which assess critical thinking and communication abilities. Teamwork and leadership skills are also assessed throughout the week during many events.
“The assessment is designed primarily to create situations that allow candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their aptitude to lead in a stressful environment,” Hunt said. “Operationally, TACP Officers are asked to work in high-pressure, high-stakes environments performing tasks ranging from mission planning and advising ground force commanders on the integration of Air Force capabilities, to the execution of close air support missions alongside joint and multinational forces. The simulated combat environments and stressful situations we create during TOPT allows the cadre and psychologists to understand how each candidate behaves and performs under pressure to ensure they are well suited for their future operational roles.”
At the end of the week, 12 candidates were hired to begin TACP officer training out of 24 that were assessed throughout TOPT.
U.S. Air Force Col. Kenneth Boillot, 1st ASOG commander, was the hiring authority for TOPT 19-4, and U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robert Skowronski, 1st ASOG chief enlisted manager, served as his senior enlisted advisor for making the selections. Who gets offered slots at the end of TOPT is up to the discretion of the hiring authority, usually the commander of the closest TACP unit.
“The TACP officer accessions program has been executed by Air Combat Command since it began about 10 years ago,” Hunt said. “All active duty 13L’s [TACP officers] are assessed and selected through this program. By hosting the event at JBLM, the 1 ASOG enabled increased involvement from Pacific Air Forces Command TACP’s. We plan to continue holding at least one assessment each year at JBLM to assure all members of the TACP community have the opportunity to participate in the selection and development of its future leaders.”