Bo Vallandingham has found his niche. After he graduated from Minford High School in 2012, he worked jobs here and there and then…”I decided to join.” The United State’s Air Force that is, but he didn’t stop with just enlisting, he has become a member of an elite group. TACP may not mean much to you until you learn that it stands for Tactical Air Control Party.
“Basically it’s a four or five man team that’s hooked up to an Army Ranger unit,” Seth Yothers, technical sergeant, USAF, serving as the local Air Force recruiter, said.
“It’s called JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller). A regular Army Ranger that doesn’t go to the drop school, they can’t call in air strikes. So they have to have a JTAC group. So that’s what they go through. So they’re the only ones who can call in to drop bombs. That’s what Bo is. He’s basically TACP. That’s specifically what he is and when he goes to JTAC school he will be called a JTAC,” Yothers said.
“It’s a big deal. You always want to help out people for their career, whether it be something that is a specific trade like an electrician or an aircraft maintainer, but to qualify as a Special Operations Airman, that’s a big deal. It’s hard to find Airmen or civilians in shape to qualify for that, and then it’s even harder for them to actually qualify in the training.”
The fail rate among those who take the training on is around 70 to 80 percent. Most people can’t make it physically, mentally or academically, which makes Robert Bruce Vallandingham, son of Bobby Vallandingham and Judy Beth Martin something very special. Bo is the grandson of the late Bobby Vallandingham who was serving as a correction officer at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, when he was killed during the 1993 SOCF riot. Bo was born in California where his father was stationed in the military, and the family moved back to Minford.
When Vallandingham first took his ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) he was supposed to turn his talents to mechanical training because he always had an aptitude for it.
“Me and some of the others started talking about Special Operations,” Vallandingham said. ‘I just wanted to be something more specialized.”
If you thought by the description that TACP training sounds like it would not be a picnic, you would be right.
“The training was definitely tough,” Vallandingham said. “You wake up in the morning and you PT (Physical Training) until they want you to stop. You go to the classroom, hit the books, learn about antennas, radiowaves, skywaves, radios, how to read maps – latitude and longitude. You take combative course for a week. Take a water survival training for a day, qualify on the M-4 (assault rifle) and the M-9 (automatic pistol).”
The training includes a mock deployment as a team, a mock attack is meant to test your ability to make decisions under pressure.
“You’re in convoys throughout the day, little sleep, little food, just what we can bring with us,” Vallandingham said. “It’s tough, but all the blood, sweat and tears is well worth it in the end.”
Vallandingham played football his freshman year at Minford, then turned his talents to soccer and tennis. What is special to him is having played baseball on the field named after his grandfather.
“My parents are super-proud,” Vallandingham said. “Dad has always pushed me to go into the military ever since I was in high school. I wish I had done it right out of high school but I waited and my mom supports me 110 percent in anything I want to do in life. She’s (mother) scared that I’ll be going over there (deploy), but on the other hand she knows that she would rather someone like me be doing it than someone else.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.