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    JTACs from the U.S., Chile, and Spain rehearse CAS during Southern Star 23

    Joint Multinational JTACs train during exercise Southern Star 23

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Clayton Wear | A Joint Terminal Attack Controller from Spain sights in a scope on a range outside...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Clayton Wear 

    Special Operations Command South

    ANTOFAGASTA, Chile - Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the United States, Chile, and Spain trained together on the NATO standard for close air support east of Antofagasta, Chile during exercise Southern Star 23, July 24, 2023.
    Exercise SOUTHERN STAR 23 is a Chilean-led full-scale Special Operations, Joint, and Combined Employment Exercise including training on tactical maneuvers, collaboration, and decision-making during crisis scenarios.

    One of the first proficiency events of the exercise provided the opportunity for JTACs to rehearse their call-for-fire procedures following the NATO standards with an AC-130J Ghostrider from the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt, Fl.

    Sgt. 1st Class R.P., a JTAC Instructor from the 7th Special Forces Group explains the importance of having a JTAC serve as an air-to-ground liaison. 

    “JTACs are a vital asset to any commander needing to integrate fast, effective, and safe fire support to their ground elements,” said R.P. “JTAC qualified personnel maintain a high level of proficiency in both surface and air-to-ground joint fire support.”

    R.P. then continued by explaining the importance of all partner forces knowing the NATO standard.

    “Maintaining a high standard of training proficiency allows countries under the agreement to employ each other's air power to support combat operations, which solidifies us as a more lethal force.”

    “Through this exercise, we all gained a better understanding of the 12-step process in the CAS execution template. Additionally, instructing our partners on the AC-130J call-for-fire was not only beneficial training for all of us, but it was also a great time.”

    As a job requirement, R.P. not only served as a liaison for ground-to-air communication but also between partner forces.

    “Language capability allows Green Berets to better communicate with our partners in South America, allowing us to share different tactics, techniques, and procedures as well as sharing the differences in our cultures. Our goal is to always remain the partner of choice within our AOR.”

    As the lead communicator in the AC-130J to the JTACs on the ground during this iteration, Capt. Kyle Steely, a Weapons Systems Officer instructor with the 73rd Special Operations Squadron spoke on the speed of problem solving through the language barrier.

    “Coming into this exercise, I knew that there was the possibility of a language barrier, however, that did not hinder any of our operations whatsoever,” said Steely. “If there was any confusion from the ground party or from us, we would both ask our questions and then move forward.”

    Steely then continued on how the AC-130J provides a better sight-picture of forces on the ground.

    “One of my roles is to be the primary communicator to the ground party. This position allows me to help build a better battlefield picture from our eyes in the sky to the ground party which increases their situational awareness. I’m also communicating what I am seeing to the rest of the aircraft and allowing the aircraft commander to make decisions on what we should be doing moving forward.”

    Capt. John Stigall, an AC-130J Ghostrider aircraft commander from the 73rd Special Operations Squadron followed Steely by providing how the greater situational awareness in tandem with a crew of eight makes the Ghostrider such a powerful platform.

    “The great thing about the gunship is that we're able to be overhead looking over the friendly forces and can provide immediate close air support for them. We are also able to stay a long duration overhead with plenty of sensor coverage.”

    Stigall continued, “One of the biggest things that separates us is that we have so many crew members. It's not just one guy flying the plane, talking on the radio, working a sensor, and employing weapons. It's a crew of eight who are all working together. One person is on the radio, one person is driving the sensor, one person is flying the plane, and others loading and employing the weapons. I think this provides us a greater safety margin.”

    Steely then added to the safety aspects provided by an 8-person crew as well as the AC-130J providing ample information about the battle space.

    “The biggest thing that we want to minimize is any injury or harm to the guys on the ground, which at the end of the day, that's our main priority. So first we make sure that we know all the different locations friendlies are located, where they're moving, and then if they encounter any threats they can direct us to help solve the problem.”

    Following this, Steely again mentioned the applicability and lethality of partner forces following the NATO standard for Close Air Support, or CAS.

    “If everybody has the same foundation of knowledge and training, it makes doing what we're doing right now even easier. We can just come into a place where there's never been a gunship before and after a small briefing with the party beforehand we can take off and have a smooth flying mission.”
    “Ideally this can transfer into the future where if we need to support them in a battlefield situation or combat situation, that they already know how we operate, and then they have all the correct terminology and procedures moving forward.”

    As a member of the Chilean Air Force’s Special Operations, Capt. Felipe Campos, the JTAC Foxtrot Unit team leader with the 8th Squadron, mentioned the value gained through working with partner forces.

    “The most valuable thing we gained through this exercise was the relationships we gained and the trust we built among each other. This was a great experience to share tactics, techniques, and procedures so that we can all work with each other's air power.”

    “It was also great to share and rehearse the procedures to call in close-air-support with so many guys who have experience. We even had the opportunity to work with aircraft like the AC-130J for the first time.”

    Finally, Sgt. Brian Bartholomew, a Recon Team Leader from the Fourth Recon Alpha Company, Camp Lejeune, NC. summarized by saying, "Even though we’ve worked together before, if any of these JTACs needed to control our aircraft it won’t be their first time. I hope that they got more familiarity and comfort in working with our units, and I hope everyone knows they can rely on us to work with them.”



    Date Taken: 08.01.2023
    Date Posted: 08.01.2023 07:45
    Story ID: 450398
    Location: ANTOFAGASTA, CL

    Web Views: 1,243
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