146th ASOS builds partnership during warfighter exercise

EDINBURGH, IN, UNITED STATES 06.15.2018 Story by Staff Sgt. Brigette Waltermire  137th Special Operations Wing   EDINBURGH, Indiana – The 146th Air Support Operations Squadron (146th ASOS), Will Rogers Air National Guard Base (WRANGB) in Oklahoma City, worked with new and old partners during Warfighter 18-5 (WFX 18-5), June 5-14, 2018, at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center near Edinburgh, Indiana. Warfighter is a nine-day, 24-hour warfighter exercise that brought together the 146th ASOS with the Oklahoma National Guard 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (45th IBCT) and for the first time, the Minnesota Army National Guard 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (1/34th ABCT). Eight participants from the 146th ASOS squadron were split between the two units to provide continuous planning assistance for the Army training audience. “Our contribution to this exercise is to support our two aligned partners,” Master Sgt. Christopher Vaughn, 146th ASOS tactical air control party (TACP) noncommissioned officer in charge. “It is our opportunity to integrate with all the different army entities and shops that we will work with when we deploy.” Warfighter 18-5 (WFX-18-5) was conducted to help battalions under the 34th Infantry Division reinforce Army battle drills in a computer-simulated combat environment. Conducting these operations in a virtual battlefield allowed the Soldiers to fine-tune standard processes and see the real-time combat results of battle plans, actions and decisions. “It’s extremely important to build a team mission command, but it’s more than that – it’s getting to know each other,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Kemp, 1/34th ABCT commander. “We have a whole year to build that and trust, and this past week has been critical for that.” In the past, the 146th ASOS had only worked with infantry brigades (the 45th IBCT and the 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in California), so integration with the armored brigade has offered the squadron an opportunity to expand their skill set, said Lt. Col. Craig Ilschner, commander of the 146th ASOS. “They behave and operate differently from an infantry brigade, so it has been a learning experience for us… but the 1/34th have been great working with us and helping us better understand the way they operate,” he said. During the exercise, the 146th ASOS acted as a realistic asset during the training and generated requests for air support that were received from the division. Their job during the exercise was to help the Army fire support officer create a joint tactical air request and help submit close air support requests through the Air Force. Master Sgt. Benjamin Lake, 146th ASOS chief of weapons and tactics, was one of four 146th ASOS members who worked directly with Soldiers in the 1/34th ABCT mobile tactical operations center in 12-hour shifts. This was the fifth warfighter exercise for him, and he said each one has been better than the last. However, he also said WFX-18-5 has been particularly special because of the integration between the 146th ASOS and the 1/34th ABCT. “The training right now is to help us integrate with the 1/34th ABCT and to let them know what we’re doing,” said Lake. “We’re really learning how their particular brigade operates.” The 146th ASOS participates in warfighter exercises when necessitated by their Army partners. As a longstanding partner, the 45th IBCT is not new to the processes of the 146th ASOS. In 2008, the 146th ASOS was established as a tenant unit on WRANGB to support the 45th IBCT and 75th IBCT. They deployed with the 45th IBCT to Afghanistan in 2011 and have regularly been on missions and training exercises since 2013. Their training has evolved over the years to coordinating joint air support for joint and combined operations, such as during Operation Allied Spirit in 2016, in which the 45th and 146th replicated a multi-national division in an operational environment with 12 other countries. “Our relationship overall has really evolved from basic tactical execution with the TACP six years ago to joint operational planning,” said Chief Warrant Officer Rowdy Isbill, targeting officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 45th IBCT. “Our relationship as a guard element with the 146th rivals any active duty unit.” For Ilschner, WFX 18-5 was not only an opportunity for training and building the 146th ASOS’ existing working relationship with the 45th IBCT, but it also served as proving ground for their new partnership with the 1/34th ABCT. “This is the foundation of what will be a relationship that I expect to grow and improve over the next several years,” Ilschner said. “We like to be experts at what we do, and we align well with the 1/34th because they have the same training mindset and operational paradigm.” //ENDS// Click HERE for the original story from DVIDS.

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13 ASOS completes seventh annual 24-hour run

COLORADO SPRINGS, CT, UNITED STATES 05.02.2018 Story by Audrey Jensen  21st Space Wing Public Affairs   PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A green, blue and red flag flew for 24 hours around the Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Fitness Center track, in honor of 12 fallen servicemembers.  The 13th Air Support Operations Squadron, based out of Fort Carson, Colorado, kept the Tactical Air Control Party Association’s flag flying as their unit, along with other units around the world, completed the 24-hour run challenge, April 26 – 27, 2018. “People ask what we’re doing out here — it’s to bring awareness to the TACP Association,” said Senior Airman Taylor Rahtjen, 13 ASOS Joint Terminal Attack Control instructor. Through this run and online donations, the TACP Association can give funds to TACP families for school scholarships, cars and emergency plane tickets, among other donations. “Every squadron also totals their miles. There’s a certain dollar amount that’s donated per mile,” said Rahtjen. One of the fallen, Maj. David Gray, the former 13 ASOS leader who was killed in action in 2012, was honored through this run as well, said Master Sgt. Jon Mosley, 13 ASOS JTAC instructor. “He had the ability to draw people to him and not just foster a team but foster a family environment like nobody I’ve ever seen,” said Mosley. About 70 Airmen from the 13 ASOS unit showed up for the run, Rahtjen said, and as the 24 hours went on, they took two-hour shifts in groups of about 10 people per shift. For more information about the TACP Association, visit https://tacpassociation.org/blog/. //ENDS// Story from DVIDS For more articles like this, click HERE

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Oklahoma National Guard provides Joint Terminal Attack Controller expertise to Estonian Defenses, reinforces critical capability

VALGA COUNTY, ESTONIA 05.11.2018 Story by Maj. Kurt Rauschenberg  58th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade   VALGA County, Estonia — They are the enablers and conduits of connectivity between multinational forces in close air support involved in offensive and defensive operations from a forward position.  In this case, two Tactical Air Control Party members, U.S. Air Force Maj. Karl Hurdle and Tech Sgt. Laurence Paradis, from the Okla. Guard’s 146th Air Support Operations Squadron work alongside Estonian counterparts during Exercise HEDGEHOG, also known as Siil 2018, to formalize the ideal situation for a successful airlift in a simulated combat scenario. Carrying an orange and pink VS17 panel marker in his hands, Paradis, a qualified U.S Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller, works to mark a specific location for an in-coming Estonian Air Force Robinson 44 and U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to land for an air mission briefing. He’s keeping in close contact with pilots to assist with planning combined fires and effects from the air. Meanwhile, Hurdle stays with the Estonian Defense Force’s brigade Air Liaison Officer, Lt. Janno Õsso, to advise and assist him on successfully completing the multinational airlifts. Each have an important role in the exercise; to integrate JTAC capabilities between U.S. partners and allies. “I’m an Air Liaison Officer and I’ve been working with Õsso during this exercise to develop himself as a knowledgeable and confident ALO for his brigade,” Hurdle said. “This is the most rewarding part of my job.” Õsso is the ALO for the Estonian 2nd brigade and coordinating for the 43rd Estonian Defense League Battlegroup, a battalion-sized light infantry unit consisting of both volunteers and professional soldiers. Most of the 43rd soldiers are from Southern Estonia and familiar with the terrain, so they can use it to their advantage. “I’m very new in the ALO role with 2nd brigade,” Õsso said. “I’ve gained so much experience from Hurdle and Paradis and I would not have been this successful if it were not for them.” The TACP members from the Okla. Guard assist with the communications plan for JTACs in the area of the landing zone and de-conflict airspace. They also advise on specific conditions, such as wind changes, enemy presence, and other hazardous considerations the aircrafts may encounter during their mission. “Interoperability plays a big part with the ALO,” said Paradis. “The ALO is the focal point for air-to-ground operations between multinational forces.” The TACP will coordinate with the brigade fire support officers, an air operations and air support operations center to ensure the mission goes as planned. “De-confliction of airspace allows ground fires to occur while keeping everyone safe in the air,” Paradis said. However, to Hurdle and Paradis, assisting Estonian TACP members become skilled in JTAC capabilities is not new for the Okla. Guard. “We’ve had a relationship built with Estonia for the past couple years working together to enhance their JTAC qualifications from brigade-level down,” said Hurdle. “ALOs have to understand how JTACs operate for both rotatory and fixed wing assets to effectively engage targets.” The Okla. Guard regularly works with Estonia to develop JTAC capabilities in the defense forces through exercises such as HEDGEHOG 2018, occurring every 3-4 years, and Spring Storm, an annual exercise. And although Estonia has been the State Partnership Program nation to the Md. Guard since 1993, Okla. Guard also supports this vital mission. HEDGEHOG 2018, occurring 2-14 May, is the largest exercise ever conducted in Estonia with a nation-wide training area and major activities conducted in South-East Estonia and Northern Latvia. The purpose of the exercise is to train on territorial defense, both in conventional and asymmetrical warfare. Internally, the exercise brings together members of the Estonian Defense League, Women’s Home Defense League, and regular Defense Force. Additionally, Estonian police and border forces and emergency management personnel also participated. With cooperation from 15 NATO allied forces, over 15,000 personnel participated in Exercise HEDGEHOG 2018. The Md. and Mich. National Guard also participated in the exercise. //ENDS// This article was extracted from DVIDS. For more battlefield airmen stories like this, click HERE.

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Air Guard simulates air support coordination

CAMP MURRAY, WA, UNITED STATES 05.16.2018 Story by Tech. Sgt. Seth Bleuer  194th Wing  CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – The Washington Air National Guard’s 111th Air Support Operations Squadron and 116th Air Support Operations Squadron ran an exercise here on May 4 and 5 simulating a joint service tactical operations center. The exercise simulated a division-level operating center that would consist of about a thousand airmen and soldiers supporting front line troops in combat. Airmen of the 111th ASOS, working with their counterparts from the active duty Army and Army National Guard, coordinate air and artillery support that is crucial in maintaining battlefield superiority. “The tactical operations center serves as a centralized hub for information to flow through so that the 111th ASOS can maintain control of the airspace and coordinate air support into the areas of the battlefield that will provide the biggest impact where it is needed most,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jason Roland of the 111th ASOS. The 116th ASOS provided Tactical Air Control Party members in the simulator to call in air support, providing a level of realism to the training that allowed members of both units to practice their missions. “It’s really an amazing simulator that integrates joint fires working between the Air Force and the Army,” said Roland. The exercise included a simulated chemical attack that forced the airmen of the 111th ASOS to practice donning their gas masks and simulating the movement of a joint tactical operations center of over 1,000 soldiers and airmen to a safe location while still providing crucial air and artillery support to the troops on the front line. This exercise was in preparation for their upcoming Warfighter 18-5 exercise later in 2018. //ENDS// This article was extracted from DVIDS. For more Battlefield Airmen stories like this one, click HERE.

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Battlefield Airmen integrate with F-35, improve air ground dominance

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska- — During the F-35 Lightning II’s pre-Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, Airmen from the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron had the opportunity to work with all three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter. Tactical Air Control Party Airmen coordinate air support with joint and international platforms, making this a unique opportunity to work with three different versions of the fifth-generation aircraft. “We were able to execute close-air-support training scenarios and validate TACP cold-weather training,” said Staff Sgt. Gary Russell, Detachment 1, 3rd ASOS battalion air liaison officer. “We were also able to build the 3rd ASOS’s familiarization with all F-35 variants.” Unlike other aircraft used for CAS, the F-35 utilizes speed and stealth technology to become a more lethal threat on the battlefield. “It’s a little more difficult to control than some other aircraft,” said Russell. “It flies higher and faster than most aircraft we deal with, but it also gives us the advantage of not having to worry about as many surface-to-air threats. Because of that, we are able to focus more on the ground commander’s priorities.” Alaska’s weather makes some tasks harder to accomplish than others; but as part of United States Special Operation Forces, weather can’t keep an objective from being obtained. “Weather was our biggest challenge,” said Russell. “At minus 30 degrees, batteries drain rapidly and keeping them warm is difficult.” The roads to get to the different ranges located in Alaska are usually unpaved and difficult to drive on, and with a couple feet of snow added it makes getting out there extremely difficult. “Air Force Technical Applications Center, Detachment 460, was able to provide us with a Sno-Cat,” said Russell. “Tech. Sgt. Cyrus Freeman from Det. 460 transported TACP personnel in the Sno-Cat for 15 hours a day all week. This was a significant battlefield enabler and a game-changer in allowing the missions to flow smoothly.” The F-35 Lightning II is a multi-service and multi-nation fifth generation fighter aircraft, making it an integral part of future operations for the Department of Defense as well as its allies. “In today’s military as TACP, we are regularly exposed to a joint battlefield,” said Russell. “So any exposure to platforms from varying nations and services is of benefit to us.” With the addition of F-35 Fighter Squadrons in the near future, along with the TACP Airmen of the 3rd ASOS, Eielson will be the force enabling the United States military’s dominance in the air and on the ground. By 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs News Desk, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

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Air Force to enhance physical fitness test, standards for select career fields

FROM AF.MIL The Air Force began the rollout of Tier 2 physical training standards as more than 100 battlefield Airmen demonstrated new career field specific testing components at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, Jan. 9, 2018. The adoption of the Tier 2 standards will exempt battlefield Airmen from three of the four components of the Air Force fitness assessment because their occupational fitness assessments already effectively measure the fitness required for their missions. Air liaison officers and tactical air control party operators will soon see the implementation of new physical fitness test requirements, making them the first career fields in the Air Force to have occupationally-specific and operationally-relevant standards, as well as a second fitness assessment. Officials stated these requirements will ensure operators have the necessary physical ability to perform critical job-related duties beyond what is required of Airmen on the current Air Force fitness assessment. “ALO and TACP operators will be given a 12-month period after implementation to adapt to these new tests and standards before they are officially enforced,” said Dr. Neal Baumgartner, Air Force chief of the Exercise Science Unit. According to Air Force Instruction 36-2905, Fitness Program, all Airmen are required to maintain a certain level of physical fitness in order to meet the science-based health and general fitness criterion standards of the Air Force-wide fitness assessment. Referred to as a Tier 1 physical fitness test, the Air Force-wide Fitness Assessment is designed to ensure Airmen are present for duty in overall good health. “These Tier 1 scores are critical for all Airmen, but they do not necessarily reflect military task achievement,” Baumgartner said. “There are certain career fields, ALO and TACP for instance, that required much higher and broader levels of physical fitness to meet the demands of their operational mission sets. This is why we initiated additional science-based work to determine this additional set of fitness tests and standards, referred to as Tier 2, to more adequately assess unique, physically demanding Air Force specialty codes.” With help and support from RAND Project AIR FORCE, the Exercise Science Unit, or ESU, began developing Tier 2 standards for battlefield Airmen operators in October 2011. “To properly develop Tier 2 tests and standards, we performed five major steps to develop a final product: identify critical physical job tasks, develop fitness tests and physical task simulations, validate fitness tests and standards versus operational physical requirements, implement and verify these tests and standards, and finally document Tier 2 products and provide recommendations for policy during the adaptation period,” said Baumgartner. While assessing physical job demands in Step 1, three focus groups of ALO and TACP operators were used to identify 44 ALO-TACP Critical Physical Tasks, or CPTs. These were reviewed and approved by senior leaders from the operational community and used as the foundation for the remaining four Tier 2 steps. To execute the second step of developing physical fitness tests and physical task simulations, ESU used a systematic process that involved evaluating more than 100 physical fitness tests to create the Tier 2 Operator Prototype PF Test Battery, the final prototype consists of 10 test components. Each of these components is accompanied by descriptions highlighting the specific purpose of the test, muscle groups measured, protocol for administration, scoring and relevance – the operational capabilities predicted by the test. “The important take-away here is that each of these 10 components have specific relevance to unique ALO-TACP operational mission sets,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Gruse, ESU NCO in charge. “The grip strength test for example measures muscular strength in the hands and forearms, but why? While some may see this as redundant to other test components, our study found grip strength plays a significant role in performing tasks such as litter carries, casualty drags and rescue sled pulls during casualty movement.” Tier 2 Operator Prototype PF Test Battery components: • Grip Strength • Medicine Ball Toss, back and side • Three Cone Drill • Trap Bar Deadlift, 5 repetition maximum • Pull-Up • Lunges, weighted 50 pound, metronome • Extended Cross Knee Crunch, metronome • Farmer’s Carry, 2×50 pound, 100 yards • Row Ergometer, 1000 meters • Run, 1.5 miles In addition to the test battery, ESU and RAND designed eight broad physical task simulations, or PTSs, to approximate the CPTs performed by ALO and TACP operators. Like the fitness test battery components, these simulations were developed in collaboration with special operators, reviewed by senior leaders, and pretested during a pilot study. PTSs provide a realistic approximation of physical operational actions ALO and TACP could be confronted with during an operational mission. During Step 3, the ESU tested 171 Airmen on both the fitness test battery and the PTSs, validating the linkage, and developed the top 10 fitness test components for predicting operational physical success. Physical Task Simulation components: •[…]

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ALO

Northern Strike

From DVIDS: A convoy of military vehicles rolled over gravel roads and splashed dust into the cool air. Polish 18th Airborne Battalion infantrymen exited their vehicles and began preparing their equipment. Nearby, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sam Salcedo, 146th Air Support Operations Squadron tactical air control party specialist, was also prepping his equipment. He was mentoring U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Jonathan Moran, 146 ASOS tactical air control party specialist, who recently graduated one of the first stages of TACP technical training. Moran was double checking his lists and following instruction from Salcedo when the 18th Airborne Battalion ground commander emerged from the cloud of settling dust. Salcedo reached towards the ground commander and they shook hands. “I’ll be your main JTAC [joint terminal attack controller],” Salcedo said to the ground commander. “Okay, we’re going live tonight,” he replied with a smile. Although there was a slight communication barrier, both buzzed with excitement for the scenario. The 146 ASOS TACPs fell into one of the two foot patrols, and another night mission at Northern Strike 17 began. Northern Strike is a massive, one-of-a-kind joint terminal air attack controller-centric exercise that spans more than 100 miles across the northern portion of Michigan. Since its creation in 2011, the exercise has grown from 500 participants to attracting more than 5,500 in 2017. The intention of the exercise is to prepare military personnel for a deployed environment, which means working alongside joint and integrated forces. So far, it’s proved successful. In 2017, Northern Strike became one of 43 programs worldwide to receive Joint National Training Capability accreditation. JNTC is a program of the Department of Defense working to better prepare military personnel in realistic joint environments with other services. Receiving the accreditation validates not only the importance of Northern Strike, but also the quality of training for the participants. At the heart of the exercise, Master Sgt. Ben Lake, 146 ASOS standards and evaluations evaluator, and Maj. Karl Hurdle, 146 ASOS air liaison officer, worked tirelessly months before and during NS17 coordinating schedules. Lake had to fill more than 540 flying hours of close air support for the exercise. With more than 70 TACPs to choose from, he hand picked them based on skill level and experience to best fulfill the needs of the mission set. “I was very happy to know that my guys got the training I provided for them,” Lake said. “This type of training has further prepared them to save someone else’s life, save their own life and be combat ready when they deploy.” There were 22 TACPs with the 146 ASOS at NS17. They made up the largest TACP contingent of the exercise, and all of them experienced live-fire scenarios, many with multi-national partners. Each qualified TACP specialist was able to communicate with the involved ground commanders and pilots before each scenario began. The real-world experience of serving as a liaison between the aircraft and the ground commanders benefitted both seasoned TACP specialists and newcomers. “The exercise encompasses everything you would find downrange, minus getting shot at,” said Staff Sgt. Zach Scheffler, 146 ASOS TACP instructor. “You know, it’s overwhelming at first. But, seeing stuff like this at Northern Strike is only going to make our guys more prepared for a deployment.” The training scenarios had virtually endless possibilities. On some ranges, JTACs were able to integrate with large U.S. Army National Guard maneuver elements during live-fire scenarios. On others, they integrated with U.S. Marines Forces Reserve and controlled airspace from amphibious assault vehicles. These mission sets also created multiple opportunities for experienced TACPs to work with younger Airmen on facing challenges that may arise when deployed. “This was crucial for our younger Airman to be here at Northern Strike,” said Salcedo. “It’s easy to train in a classroom environment when there is air conditioning and we’re sitting down. But it’s so much harder to do things when we are actually in the field, like following a combat maneuver team with live CAS [close air support] flying and live bullets flying around. It’s crucial for these young guys to get thrown into environments like this.” Northern Strike 17 benefited the 146 ASOS on many levels. The exercise provided incredibly rare training experiences, the opportunity to integrate with joint forces and a vessel for mentorship. After the night mission with the Polish 18th Airborne Infantry Battalion, Salcedo and Moran sat under a starry Michigan sky for a few minutes to talk about improving on their next mission set. Both of them are at different skill levels, and both of them are ready for the next challenge. For one, that means the next phase of training and for the other a probable deployment. Whatever comes next, whatever the call may be, Northern Strike 17 has only made them[…]

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Battlefield Airmen bear the cold, increase combat capability

The 3rd ASOS recently completed some bone-chilling field training exercises up in Alaska.  Judging by the pictures, it looks like they had a kick ass time in the frozen tundra. Story By Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska — Working outside when it’s negative 15 degrees, which is cold enough for your eyelashes to frost over, isn’t the ideal environment for most; but for Airmen with Detachment 1, 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron, it’s just another day. Last week, Det. 1, 3 ASOS completed their winter functional training exercise, where they endured the bone-chilling cold and increased their overall lethality. “Being able to operate in arctic conditions is a lot different than operating in ideal conditions,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Cuoto, the Det. 1, 3 ASOS unit training manager. “When it gets that cold equipment and people can break, but you have to push forward.” With interior Alaska being an extremely harsh and unforgiving environment, it makes for the perfect place to help prepare and hone the capabilities of the Air Force’s elite operators also known as Tactical Air Control Party. “We went over some different things that some of our guys haven’t seen yet,” said Staff Sgt. Philip Henderson, the Det. 1, 3 ASOS operational training manager. “We were able to cover tactical ground movements, classroom material, familiarization training and some other essentials.” Commonly embedded with Marine and Army units, TACP Airmen play an important role in ensuring ground and air forces are on the same page. “This is as close as it gets,” said Henderson. “Right now these Airmen are learning things they’ll need when they’re deployed.”

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