Alcide S. “Bull” Benini was a World War II combat veteran and a founding father of the Air Force’s Combat Control Teams (CCT). Bull began his military career in the Army just prior to United States involvement in World War II and retired as a Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force nearly thirty years later. He was born on 15 October 1921 in Cologna, Italy. In 1929, at the age of eight, he immigrated to the United States with his family, settling in Griffin, Pennsylvania. On 6 May 1940 Bull enlisted in the Army and, less than six weeks later, went to the Philippines with the 31st Infantry Regiment as a rifleman and radio operator. While there, he fought against the Japanese until his capture in March of 1942. Ultimately, Bull spent three and one-half years in Japanese captivity; initially in the Philippines, then Hong Kong, Formosa, and eventually Japan proper. Following the war and repatriation, he went to Army jump school and was assigned to the Pathfinder Platoon of the 82nd Airborne Division. In July of 1952, he was hand-selected to be part of the initial cadre for the first Army Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, based largely on his wartime experiences and his fluency in both Italian and Spanish. Bull enjoyed his Special Forces work, but still felt “confined” by Division rules and some “under-tasked and overeager” military police who were constantly writing him up for minor infractions. It was during this period that the Air Force established its own Pathfinder program, and Bull was recruited to help develop it. On 8 January 1953, he resigned from the Army and on the same day enlisted in the Air Force as an E-6, with the promise of promotion to E-7 within six months. The Air Force quickly changed the name of the Pathfinder program to Combat Control, and Bull became the first official Combat Controller. As the first non-commissioned officer-in-charge of a Combat Control Team, he took the lead in establishing the team’s new tactics, procedures, organization, and logistics requirements – truly one of the founding fathers of the Air Force’s Combat Control mission. For the next fifteen years, Bull led his teams to numerous hotspots such as the Congo, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Kashmir. Bull retired on 31 July 1970 as a Chief Master Sergeant with thirty years of active duty service, three and one-half of which were spent as a POW. Bull Benini passed away on 16 April 2015, at the age of 93. He is survived by his five children and four grandchildren. In recognition of his lasting impact and contributions to the Combat Control community, the Combat Control Heritage Center at Pope Air Force Base is named in his honor. Bull Benini’s courage and perseverance throughout his life continue to serve as an inspiration to all those who serve today.
Years Honored: 2015
Aircraft/Specialty: Combat Controller
CMSgt "Bull" Benini controls a resupply airdrop in Kashmir as part of Operation ROAD GRADER. Benini survived three and one-half years in Japanese captivity during World War II and went on to become the first USAF Combat Controller.