MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - 1st ANGLICO conducts firepower control team exercise
Three firepower control teams conducted a communication exercise under the observation of a combat operation center during routine training for members of 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 8.
“I guess at the end of the day it’s about communication,” said Capt. Colin Culkin, supporting arms liaison team air officer. “There’s a particular language that we use and a particular format that we may use, because that’s the way that they’re trained. But at the end of the day, if that’s not working, it’s just one guy talking to another guy or one Marine talking to another Marine.”
Understanding the language of the ANGLICO involves mastering multiple acronyms and radio operating procedures. Consistent training improves fluency during ANGLICO’s conversations laden with jargon.
“If you can do these exercises once every couple weeks then that’s good. It keeps it fresh and it allows different joint fires observers to rotate through,” Culkin said.
One of the observers, Sgt. Thomas Reilly, spent the exercise in the COC communicating with the different firepower control teams and their respective missions.
“Here we monitor all the missions that go on so we can approve them. When our FCTs are out there calling in, we say it’s approved — and same thing with any artillery missions. They need approval before they can execute the missions, Reilly said.”
“They [FCTs] will be talking straight to the aircraft. The only part we [COC] play in it is saying whether or not the mission is approved,” Reilly said.
In a combat situation the targets aren’t always isolated or safe to fire upon.
“Sometimes we’ll have an NFA [non-firing area] like a school or a church, something you can’t drop coordinates on,” Reilly said. “We’ll plot their target on our map and if their plot’s safe, it’s approved. If it’s not, we’ll tell them it’s denied for this reason: falls inside of the NFA, we have friendlies, etc.”
The process of identifying a target to an aircraft is called a talk-on, which demands a member of a firepower control team to describe and confirm specifics around the designated target until it becomes clear that the aircraft and member of the firepower control team are identifying the same target. Once this process is complete, the joint fires observers in the COC will give a green light if the mission is approved.
“I think it went well, today,” Culkin said. “Everybody got to get on the radio, everybody got to do a target talk-on, and when you weren’t actually the ‘guy up to bat’ you were watching everyone else.”
Communication is key in almost every situation and becomes easier with trust and experience developed through consistent training between members of 1st ANGLICO.
“Ideally, you are always with your FCT,” said Culkin. “You have to know and believe in your other teammates so that way you can share that responsibility with the other experts and count on them to get the job done.”