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    Coalition JTACs raise Air Week off the ground

    Coalition JTACs raise Air Week off the ground

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Luke Kitterman | A Squadron 3 patch hangs on the wall inside the Squadron 3 building at Balad Air Base,...... read more read more

    A Joint Terminal Attack Controller, or JTAC, is a military unit with the qualification and authority to control and direct aircraft during Close Air Support and other offensive air operations. From the ground, they can communicate the location of selected targets to their aircraft above providing a lethal tandem for any enemy to deal with, while also minimizing any collateral damage.

    This capability has been adapted by many of the world’s militaries enabling coalition forces to train and integrate with one another.

    Here in Iraq, JTAC Air Advisors from the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron led and completed a combined exercise known as Air Week at Balad Air Base, June 13-18, 2019.

    The training involved two Iraqi flying units, Squadron 3 and the 9th Fighter Squadron, who collaborated with Iraqi Special Mission Controllers, a ground force unit with a skillset and mission similar to that of a JTAC.

    Prior to the start of Air Week, two of the 370th AEAS JTAC Air Advisors, who go by the names of Mac and Bacco, had been working directly with both flying units while other advisors worked strictly with the SMCs in a separate location.

    “For four or five months, Mac and I have been acting as the JTACs on the ground when working with Squadron 3 and 9th Fighter Squadron,” said Bacco, an Italian JTAC. “We have performed roughly 50 training missions together with them so they can hear how a JTAC communicates and what kind of perspective we have from the ground. It is important for the pilots to know how we work so they can ask the right questions and know how to gather the proper information from their guys.”

    Armed with that knowledge, the pilots took to the sky every day of Air Week waiting for the commands from their trained SMCs on the ground so they could conduct the mock scenarios set up for them. The SMCs would have to use maps, estimate distances and point out prominent land marks to effectively communicate the right target to the pilot all while delivering the information in standard format called a “5-line.”

    Mac and Bacco would listened in on the radio for the duration of the mission in order to monitor the communication between the two parties.

    “The whole idea of this training is for them to build a relationship with each other and we were just here to help facilitate that,” said Mac, a U.S. Air Force JTAC. “We would listen in for anything we thought we might be able to talk about afterward, both positive and negative. We saw tremendous improvement every day because all this training has to be done in English and a lot of the growing process had to do with learning all the specific terminology we use.”

    According to Mac, this training is not only beneficial to the Iraqi military units involved but also to all coalition forces as he looks to the future.

    “Looking further down the road, you now have the possibility of Iraqi F-16s supporting CAS missions with a coalition JTAC on the ground and the inverse is, possibly having a SMC on the ground with coalition aircraft above,” explained Mac. “It will be this type of continued training that will make us all assets to each other.”

    That long-term mindset is apparently adapted by all players involved in the training as more Air Weeks are scheduled in the near future.

    Both Mac and Bacco feel that this experience has been extremely rewarding for them in the sense that the flying units had to put their trust in them for a long period of time and that the training would pay off in the long run.



    Date Taken: 06.18.2019
    Date Posted: 07.26.2019 09:21
    Story ID: 333153
    Location: IQ

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