Air Force combat controllers (CCT) are special operations airmen who act as mobile air traffic controllers, organizing air support and communicating ground conditions to those above. In late 2001, Joe O’Keefe, a CCT, was on tour in Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. Intelligence reported that Osama bin Laden was hiding in the cave complexes known as Tora Bora in the area. With the help of the some Northern Alliance members, O’Keefe, a Delta Force operator, and two CIA scouts infiltrated the area surrounding the mountainous base. From their observation post they estimated hundreds, if not thousands, of enemy combatants could be hidden within the caves. When he and his teammates arrived in the area they thought they would only be there for a night, but the tactical advantage was too great to give up. They ended up staying there for five days, calling in airstrikes almost continuously. A team of Green Berets with another CCT eventually took position opposite O’Keefe in the valley and the airstrikes continued, killing hundreds of Al-Qaeda members, but not Osama bin Laden himself.
The Crossroads of Special Operations