April 6, 2009 (by Casey Bain) - In partnership with the Army's National Training Center, the Air Force's Green Flag West is improving joint integration and warfighting skills of fighter pilots and joint terminal attack controllers.
USAF F-16D block 50 #91-0464 from the 22nd FS begins its taxi to take-off during Green Flag West 09-05 at Nellis AFB. [Photo by Casey Bain]
Conducting close air support missions to support maneuver forces as they prepare for deployments to Iraq
The 23rd Fighter Squadron, an F-16 fighter unit from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; the 79th Air Refueling Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; and the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team from the North Carolina Army National Guard have been training together as part of GFW and NTC training rotation 09-05.
U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team is helping support and integrate joint training between the two services.
"NTC and GFW are great examples of how we can link traditional service-level exercises into one well-synchronized training event that benefits all participants and services," said Air Force Master Sgt. Joel House, JFIIT lead at NTC. "Part of JFIIT's mission during this exercise is to help integrate a variety of joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets with the 30th HBCT and to support the joint air attack team and CAS
training that will help prepare the unit for that mission once they deploy."
Part of this joint training replicates the irregular warfare environment in Iraq and Afghanistan according to senior leaders from both training centers.
"Our mission is to train our joint, coalition, and interagency partners on how to better integrate the use of air, space, and cyber power in support of ground forces in contemporary operations," said Air Force Lt. Col. John Walker, commander, 549th Combat Training Squadron and GFW. "We emphasize joint doctrine and best practices to provide the pilots and maneuver units with a training experience that will prepare them for the challenges they will face once in theater."
"The learning experience and opportunity for units to grow while training here in a very realistic, stressful, and complex operational-like environment is second to none," said Army Capt. Clement Bermudes, training mentor at NTC. "The 30th HBCT has been very receptive to our feedback and are willing to make adjustments to improve their performance across the board - they continue to get better every day."
This current rotation includes participation of a KC-10 Extender, an Air Force tanker that provides air refueling capability for the aircraft participating in this exercise.
"Green Flag provides the experience our team needs to gear up and be ready to deploy," said Air Force Maj. Dirk Young, KC-10 aircraft commander from the 79th Air Refueling Squadron. "We're helping provide the fighter pilots with a very unique training environment that simulates the same conditions that the pilots will see downrange. Whether we're dropping bombs on targets or refueling those that are preparing to drop bombs, we're all focused on providing the best training possible for the entire joint team."
Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Snyder, director of operations for the 79th Air Refueling Squadron, agreed. "We help the aircrews and JTACs gain their combat proficiency by training together with an Army brigade at NTC in a very dynamic and near-real world environment. One thing that's unique about our aircrew's refueling mission here is that we are all reservists. We're a very senior team of professionals that will gladly pass on our experience to help others that are preparing to deploy."
Fighter pilots from the 23rd Fighter Squadron also value the unique opportunity to work with JTACs and their Army counterparts in this live and robust training environment.
"Training here at GFW and NTC allows us to focus solely on our CAS mission that is so vital when we're supporting Army maneuver units", said Air Force Capt. Craig Andrle, B-Flight commander, 23rd Fighter Squadron. "We realize that we are just part of a larger war effort taking place on the ground and this training will help us to better support those maneuver units when we're downrange...you want to make sure you've got it right before you need to support troops in contact."
"GFW and NTC provides world-class CAS training in a very realistic and demanding environment for the Air Force, Army and our other partners," said Air Force Maj. Paul Kirmis, director of operations, 549th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base. "This training is made possible because of our entire team here and at NTC. GFW, NTC and organizations like JFIIT enhance the integration of joint assets and provide the vital resources that help educate units on how to support an urban CAS fight."
NTC leaders realize the importance of Army brigade combat teams training with the forces, assets, and capabilities they will have when deployed.
"Army units need to develop a plan that integrates airpower into their operations orders and scheme of maneuver," said Army Maj. Steve Thrasher, ground liaison officer at GFW from NTC. "It's a critical asset that we need to fully leverage to defeat the irregular threat that we're seeing today in Iraq and Afghanistan."
According to senior leaders at GFW and NTC, one of the most significant advantages to training at GFW and NTC is the training centers use of the after action review process that provides feedback to the warfighters immediately after each mission.
"Our training cycle is set up so that we continually brief, execute, and debrief all key personnel that train here," said Walker. "Our Airmen understand that we're here in direct support of a ground maneuver force and we're going to do our best to deliver the commander's desired effects on the battlefield. We will do everything we can to help the warfighter accomplish their mission and that crucial joint training starts right here."