In March 1952, the activation of a large troop carrier unit- the Eighteenth Air Force at Donaldson AFB, SC., - provided a focal point to developments in air-to-ground operations, including the pathfinder/combat control function.
Headquarters Tactical Air Command (TAC) directed the Eighteenth Air Force “to designate a minimum of four lead crews, in each troop carrier group, for the purpose of specialized training in pathfinder techniques,” a measure the Eighteenth viewed as “the first step in establishing pathfinder teams” organic to the wings.
Capt. Richard Baker, pathfinder recruiter, convinced Alcide Benini to transfer into the Air Force as a member of its provisional pathfinder unit because of his experience as a master parachutist, radio operator, and pathfinder during his time in the Army. This made Alcide Benini, in essence, the first CCT.
Paratrooper Neal Stewart of Birmingham, Alabama, set the world record of 124 parachute jumps in one day. The feat was performed at Grand Prairie, Texas.
By July 1953 Eighteenth Air Force formed the six CCT's authorized by Headquarters Air Force four months earlier. The teams were adequately manned to place detachments on temporary duty status at the Army’s most important airborne troop locations: Pope AFB, North Carolina; Lawson AFB, Georgia; and Campbell AFB, Kentucky.
In 1956 a realignment affecting Eighteenth Air Force APSs resulted in “a more economic and practicable dispersion” of CCTs. Combat control teams were integral to both medium and assault troop carrier groups “because of their aerial delivery capability and ability to land at forward landing strips.”