News: MFE, MCSCG, Air Ground Integration conference takes off
Story by Master Sgt. William Price
TORUN, Poland - Marine Forces Europe launched the first ever Polish Air-Ground Integration conference, held at the Polish Armed Forces Artillery and Weapons Training Center in Torun, Poland, May 21-23.
The conference began with opening remarks by Col. Matt Baker, commanding officer of Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, and Col. Piotr Walega, training and education chief, representing the Polish General Staff Training Directorate and hosting nation.
“Integration of air and ground systems is difficult when you are dealing with a single service like the Marine Corps; doing so with multiple services and countries is decidedly harder,” said Baker. “Our Polish hosts realize this and put the AGI conference together to enhance interoperability and capability amongst the participants. This event is extremely valuable to the United States Armed forces and our partner nations.”
“We look forward to working with each of you as we begin the process of developing new solutions to integrated training,” said Walega. “Additionally, we are honored that some of you will present a brief on your national perspective in an effort to shape our discussion.”
Polish Armed Forces, with direct support from U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and the Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group (MCSCG), hosted the regional conference in a concerted effort to improve close air support, joint terminal attack control (JTAC), and fires integration skills between the partner nations.
“The synergy produced between our outstanding Polish hosts and the top-notch USMC instructors was amazing, and guidance from EUCOM helped tailor our efforts,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Toland, an MFE regional planning officer. “The conference also supported the mutual interests of the partner nations that attended, and we look forward to continued engagements with our Polish friends.”
Aviators and service members from Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovenia, as well as the U.S. and Poland met in Torun, birthplace of Copernicus, to enhance their aviation and ground interoperability and partnership capacity.
Like Copernicus, the man who first discovered that the planets revolve around the sun, vice the earth, it was a Marine of Polish descent who thought outside the box and developed the concept for the AGI conference.
Major Peter “Hef” Janow, an East-Central European Regional Affairs Officer with MCSCG, attributes his experience working for NATO as a training officer with the Joint Force Training Center in Bydgoszcz, Poland, as part of the inspiration to launch the AGI event.
“Working for NATO, already having a background and combat experience in CAS (close air support) and Joint Fires, helped me to understand the unique air-ground integration needs and regional interoperability concerns of many partner nations,” said Janow, an AH-1W Cobra Attack Helicopter pilot, Forward Air Controller (FAC) and former JTAC Program Manager. “This understanding and my current assignment with MCSCG helped me to shape the scope and intent of the conference with Marine Forces Europe and the Polish General Staff.”
From the onset of the conference more than 60 partner nation servicemembers shared their ideologies and tactics openly in an effort to improve their military procedures.
“The conference is really warming up. As a JTAC, I see great participation from our Romanian counterparts, who are greatly interested in creating their own program,” said Maj. Jacek Rachwalik, a Polish Special Operations Forces JTAC program manager.
The first day of the conference concluded with briefs on the Marine Corps Air Naval Gunfire and Liaison Company , Unmanned Aerial Systems, and JTAC program management.
“I love to work with you, partner with you, serve with you! ANGLICO provides liaison and fire support capability to joint and coalition forces when they operate within or adjacent to the MAGTF battle space. To get my support... Marine Forces Europe is the gatekeeper,” said Lt. Col. Lawrence “Dirty” Coleman, 2d ANGLICO commanding officer, during his brief. “Overall, my job is to prosecute targets in support of your mission.”
During day two, briefs were given on roles of the Air Officer, Ground Commander's perspective, Latvian and Romanian aviation, the Air Combat Element, and rotary- and fixed-wing CAS.
The third day saw in depth instruction on training management, Slovenian aviation, Forward Air Controller Airborne, and SOF and Reconnaissance.
“In ANGLICO, we partner with coalition nations, in order to provide a liaison capability and ultimately joint fires,” said Capt. Daniel “Hungry” Hipol, 1st ANGLICO, 1st Brigade Platoon Commander. “It's been an honor to work with so many partner nations, and learn from each other.”
Polish Brig. Gen. Francisek Kochanowski, PAF Chief of Training Directorate, gave very enthusiastic closing remarks on the conference and the way forward. He gave special thanks to Marine Forces Europe, and MCSCG for the facilitation the AGI conference as well as all the aviators and ground officers in attendance.
“The focus of this conference was to begin conversation regarding important coordination and integration requirements fir effective joint fires. Specifically, how we train and actually integrate other air, ground, and SOF assets in support of the Ground Commander and his scheme of maneuver,” said Kochanowski, a 40-year veteran of the PAF. “Gentlemen, as a first step in a process we hope will continue, I believe we have met our initial objectives. Continued discussion over the next several weeks and months, will help us shape the next event and define the steps we will take in support of future engagements.”
As the Polish sun set on the final day of briefings, it was clear to Kochanowski, Baker and the room full of military leaders, that the inaugural Air Ground Integration conference had soared to great success.