CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Air whips up around a group of Marines settled in an observation post as the chuffs of a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter sound approaches. U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Timothy Schmude communicates with the aircraft to ensure they are positioned in an optimal position as Cpl. Mitchell Graff marks a target with his infrared pointer, and within seconds the aircraft is engaging the target.
This is the scene these Marines, part of a larger detachment of Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) (Special Operations Capable), trained to while aboard Udairi Range Complex, Kuwait, Sept. 3-6, 2023.
This Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) element consisted of Marines from the MEU(SOC)’s Air, Naval, Gunfire, Liaison Company (ANGLICO) Firepower Control Team, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/6 Fire Support Team, and Direct Air Support Center (DASC). The detachment traveled to Kuwait in support of bilateral training between a detachment of Kuwait armed forces and Marines a part of the 26th MEU(SOC).
“We saw an opportunity to increase our combat lethality, demonstrate 26th MEU(SOC) capabilities, and improve joint interoperability by working with Task Force Blackhorse and their attached Air Force TACP element to conduct realistic live-fire close-air support (CAS) training during the exercise,” said Capt. Vernon Atkinson, the ANGLICO detachment officer in charge and Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC)-Instructor with the 26th MEU(SOC).
The ANGLICO Firepower Control Team (FCT) is a highly trained team of fire support Marines, skilled in integrating kinetic fires while also serving as a liaison capability for the 26th MEU(SOC) commander, according to Atkinson. The ANGLICO FCT attached to A Co during the Kuwait bilateral exercise to conduct training with Joint forces and MEU(SOC) organic fire supporters to build relationships and demonstrate capabilities of the 26th MEU(SOC).
The team arrived in Kuwait and prepared for the live fire event by conducting classroom periods of instruction, practical application, and simulation training to maintain proficiency in critical skills to ensure the Marines remain ready and capable of employing kinetic fires. A resource used to aid in this training was the JTAC simulation center aboard Camp Buehring, which offered highly responsive simulation software to create dynamic situations for the team to work through. The simulation center, which boasts realistic, game-like software, allows for immediate response to decision making, ensuring the Marines use critical thinking and apply their expertise to successfully accomplish tasks.
“Being able to get off ship (amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5)) and using something like this only makes us more lethal,” said Atkinson. “This also challenges the Marines in a realistic simulated scenario, allowing them to refine their skills to maintain their high level of proficiency.”
Atkinson and his team included Marines from throughout the 26th MEU(SOC) including the BLT, Aviation Combat Element, and Logistics Combat Element. They began training with rehearsals of combat patrolling fundamentals and urban considerations for selecting and occupying an observation post. They also focused on fire support planning by creating various scenarios in which the Marines were forced to develop detailed fire support plans to compliment a ground force’s scheme of maneuver. The training was built to ensure integration from all members of the team, requiring JTACs, JFOs, radio operators and DASC Marines to work together and demonstrate high levels of proficiency from each respective element.
“As Joint Fires Observers (JFOs) we collect target data and manage information flow to make sure the team leader and JTAC have everything they need to meet commander’s intent. We also assist by providing terminal guidance operations to aid in target prosecution,” said Cpl. Alexander Tague, a JFO with the 26th MEU(SOC). “This is important because it allows all members of the team to have the required information to integrate fires in support of maneuver”.
The DASC element enabled training by providing communications relays, information management and procedural control of supporting aircraft as they ingress into an objective area.
“Integrating the DASC element was critical to our success, as it created a realistic environment that is often difficult to train to due to congested airspace and range regulations,” said Atkinson. “This allowed us to refine our processes and build familiarity between the DASC and the JTACs, enabling both entities to exchange TTPs and understand how we would work together in a real fight.”
Moreover, the training showcased the ability of the ANGLICO detachment to integrate kinetic fires from multiple firing agencies in support of commander’s intent. This also allowed the Marines to sustain proficiency in critical skills, enabling the 26th MEU(SOC) to remain ‘ready, relevant, and capable’ of conducting dynamic combat operations as the Nation’s crisis response force.
“We made the most of available resources and took advantage of this opportunity to train and improve our skills,” said Atkinson. “I am confident the team will take the lessons learned here and apply them successfully should we encounter a situation where they are needed.”
|Date Posted:||09.16.2023 08:35|
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