MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho – The word on the street is the government is shutdown - which implies folks aren’t working. Tell that to the Marines from the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) who have been training in the Idaho desert from sun-up well into the night, every day since Sept. 30.
Air power, close-air support, urban combat scenarios mixed with plenty of motivation and sweat has defined Mountain Roundup 2013 here at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Tax dollars are being spent wisely as this group of 1st ANGLICO Marines is on the hook for an upcoming deployment.
Still, Mountain Roundup goes beyond Marines; it’s an opportunity for a major coalition partner nation – Germany – to certify proficiency on mission employment tasks. It’s the 1st ANGLICO Supporting Arms Liaison Team (SALT) who provides realistic training scenarios while re-qualifying their joint terminal air controller proficiencies and polishing urban kinetics.
Though scenarios differ on each mission, one recurring proficiency SALT teams practice is urban combat, while controlling CAS to support that combat – the bread and butter of any JTAC or SALT unit.
Marine Capt. Erich Lloyd, 1st ANGLICO forward air controller deployed from Camp Pendleton, Calif., recalled one urban scenario, exercised Oct. 8, 2013 at a Juniper Butte training range mock village, roughly 70 miles from Mountain Home AFB.
“Our mission during the urban assault was to attach to a U.S. Army unit and assault through the objective looking for chemical weapons - Serine gas - near the rail yard,” said Lloyd, who led a four-man fire-power control team (FIC), while commanding a second FIC and controlling CAS for the mission.
Lloyd had two FICs during the scenario; one was providing over-watch and the team he directly led, was a bounding FIC, which was tasked with clearing buildings and locating the chemical weapons. The Army unit they attached to would be a quick-reaction force, if needed, and would support after the initial assault.
Lloyd, a prior enlisted crew chief, had four U.S. Navy AV-8B Harriers in the area prior to launching the assault and had another four Republic of Singapore Air Force F-15SG Strike Eagles local, so knew with a call for CAS, he literally had 500- to 2000-pounds of freedom, available to drop at his request.
“We hit the town pretty hard, and then hit the rail yard,” said Lloyd, an experienced combat veteran who commands dozens of Afghanistan-seasoned combat Marines. “Once we got to the rail yard, we quickly got intelligence on where the chemical weapons could be found and we moved to that objective, pushing through [simulated] enemy contact along the route.”
As the SALT moved into the village, Lloyd knew his Marines had to make it to their objective really fast, he said. He had about one hour to scour a village and clear buildings.
For SALT officers or noncommissioned officers leading strikes, command and control is essential, as is communication.
“Is pretty easy to control a small four-man team but maintaining control and communications over a whole squad or platoon can be complex, but as ANGLICO, we typically move in specialized four-man fire power control teams which minimizes our ability to clear every building, but allows us the ability to get to our objective as quick as possible,” said Lloyd, whose team accomplished their mission, and also took the opportunity to share the training scenarios with other service members.
As the scenario unfolded, Lloyd and his SALT team got the opportunity to use both Navy and RSAF air assets to destroy enemy soldiers.
Partnering with coalition or joint partners isn’t a new concept for ANGLICO SALT Marines. In fact, they’ve been doing it since World War II.
Marine Capt. Charles Watt, 1st ANGLICO SALT officer in charge, and several other 1st ANGLICO Marines from SALT-D recently returned from Afghanistan, where they were attached to the 32nd Georgian Light Infantry Battalion, where the SALT Marines employed their role as the forward liaison and fire-support element.
“Other members of this SALT and SALT-C supported the British Army in Helmand Province,” said Watt. “After we redeployed, we supported the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force during exercise DAWN BLITZ in June 2013.”
Because of their extensive combined-joint experience, it came as no surprise to Lloyd that he’d be supporting coalition nations and the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force here.
“During this whole Mountain Roundup exercise, we’ve been partnering with the Germans and the [Republic of] Singapore Air Force and all our U.S. joint partners to train as a combined-joint unit aimed at the same objective,” said Lloyd. “Training with our allies is a very important role for ANGLICO because we are the Marine Corps’ liaison for coalition partners.”
When it comes to U.S. JTAC units frequently used in Afghanistan, Africa and elsewhere, it’s ANGLICO SALT, U.S. Air Force combat controllers and Tactical Air Control Party Airmen, frequently attached to U.S. Army units, who typically answer their nation’s call.
One Air Force TAC-P JTAC, Senior Airman Joseph Gilbert, described a scenario he personally saw, which is a likely mission any Marine or Airman JTAC could encounter in places like Afghanistan.
Attached to a U.S. Army Cavalry scout unit, Gilbert, from Lafayette, La., frequently found himself in kinetic situations warranting CAS.
“I was at [Forward Operating Base] Todd, [Badghis Province], and I watched as some of our scouts were pinned down, severely out-gunned and about a third of our team was wounded in a [rocket propelled grenade] strike,” said Gilbert.
He then directed NATO CAS for a show of force.
“JTACs often use air assets as a show of force to deter the enemy from continuing to engage troops on the ground, but the assault continued and our guys started taking RPG fire, so we then engaged one of the enemy’s positions with a missile,” said Gilbert.
The situation on the ground worsened and the TAC-P Airmen responded with 500-lb GBU bombs.
“A B-1 Lancer provided a 500-lb GBU on an enemy fighting position and neutralized it,” said Gilbert. “The next two bombs took out an enemy cache that was booby trapped with explosives, tubes and rockets.”
Gilbert said whether Marine, Air Force or coalition, JTACS play a large role in turning the tide on a battlefield.
“JTACs can change the course of any firefight or any enemy worldwide,” said Gilbert. “We can use aircraft in a defensive posture to try to deter the enemy from firing on our soldiers or Marines, or we can go kinetic and make sure those insurgents will never fire on a friendly soldier again. The lives of coalition soldiers are the top priority for everyone involved.”