THE PENTAGON – The Air Force formally added a new career field to its ranks this week, the 3C5XX Combat Podcaster. Under development for three years, this new profession promises to bring an informative yet zany edge to air power.
“The timely dissemination of information is critical to the successful execution of our mission,” said Gen. Ben Phelps of Air Education and Training Command. “And making that information interesting, personable, and—if at all possible—wacky, is a true force multiplier.”
The combat podcaster trainee will have to complete a series of challenging courses, including Army Airborne school and Navy diving school, before concluding 12 weeks of classes called “Interviews and Hot Takes in the Battlespace,” located at National Public Radio headquarters in Washington. It is during these last three months where the “CP” learns how to coax information from his or her “battle guest” in a way that is succinct and fun for the listening audience.
The Air Force tested the proposed specialty with a pilot program in Afghanistan over the past year, with notable successes as well as “areas for improvement.” A number of two-person CPs were inserted via low-speed, high-drag parachute drop into Helmand, Qandahar, and several other provinces where U.S. and Coalition forces were assisting the Afghan military to counter the Taliban.
Army Special Forces in Nangarhar were skeptical about the new additions, but were eventually won over.
“At first they screwed up a couple of sniper observation missions,” said Capt. James Thompson, a company commander assessing the program. ”They were always asking if they could “take a peek” through the scope when a high-value target was located. But they kind of grew on us, especially after they added some goofy slide-whistle sounds to that gunship video where we eliminated a Haqqani Network leader. That was classic.”
The dangers to be faced by these specialists were also evident during the testing period. On Sept 18, 2019, one combat podcaster attached to a Coalition Special Forces team conducting clandestine surveillance on a possible opium production plant inadvertently alerted Taliban militia to their presence when he decided to take a moment to loudly thank the podcast’s sponsors, Monster Energy Drinks.
“All Hell broke loose then,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jose Gutierrez, the squad leader on that mission. “The CPs are decent in a firefight, but they kept asking me my thoughts on proposed changes to the G.I. Bill while I was screaming for the TACP to call in air support. But their real value came just before they were redeployed, when they scored us some sweet sponsor merch from Monster and Grunt Style.”
Guided by the Combat Podcaster motto Et quaeso ut subscribe (“Please like and subscribe”), the first combat podcaster class will graduate at the end of 2020, with their first tactical podcasts expected by the following March. Check them out for a chance to win an official CP coffee mug.