Physiological and psychological characteristics of successful combat controller trainees

J Spec Oper Med. Winter 2011;11(1):39-47.

Abstract

Objectives: The United States Air Force (USAF) Combat Controller (CCT) training pipeline is extremely arduous and historically has an attrition rate of 70-80%. The primary objective of this study was to identify the physiological, psychological, or demographical characteristics associated with successful progression through the CCT pipeline program.

Methods: A battery of physiological measurements, biographical information, and psychological tests were used to determine the profile of a successful CCT trainee. These measures were chosen on the basis of being standard physical fitness parameters, CCT-specific physical attribute indicators or validated psychological surveys. A multiple of physical tests served as measurements for cardiovascular endurance (VO2max and running economy), ?anaerobic? capacity (Wingate power and loaded anaerobic endurance treadmill tests), body composition skinfolds measurements, power (Wingate and vertical jump), and reaction time (Makoto eye-hand test.) Each test was conducted using a standardized protocol. Psychological characteristics were explored through use of the International Personality Item Pool (IPIP-NEO) and the Mental Toughness Questionnaire 48 (MTQ 48).

Results: Our findings revealed the following mean characteristics of 109 CCTs who completed Phase I of the pipeline and achieved their 3-level rating: 23 years old, 1.8m tall, 81 kg, 12% body fat, VO2max of 59 ml/kg/min, vertical jump of 62 cm, able to generate 11.4 W/kg peak power and 9.3 W/Kg mean power during Wingate tests, overall mental toughness rating of 8 (out of 10) with high levels of extraversion and conscientiousness and low levels of neuroticism. The most popular competitive sport played in high school was football, followed by track, wrestling, and baseball.

Conclusions: The results of the investigation confirm that CCT trainees who have achieved a 3-level rating possess much higher than average levels of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, power, mental toughness, extraversion and conscientiousness. They possess lower than average levels of neuroticism and openness to experience. These results may prove useful in refining the selection criteria and in designing training for CCT trainees.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerospace Medicine*
  • Anaerobic Threshold
  • Body Composition
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel / education*
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Reaction Time
  • United States
  • Young Adult