Thursday, November 04, 2010

37th Bomb Squadron Airmen, Canadian forces train

by Airman 1st Class Jarad A. Denton, 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. (AFNS) -- Airmen from the 37th Bomb Squadron hosted five joint terminal attack controllers from the 1st Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in a training exercise Oct. 28 in Alzada, Mont.

The four-day joint exercise was designed to prepare the 37th BS Airmen for their upcoming deployment in January.

"The training we do here most closely mimics what we do downrange," said Capt. Robb Fiechtner, a 37th BS co-pilot. "We get some of the best training when we work with the Canadian JTACs."

In theater, JTACs are responsible for directing the actions of military aircraft engaged in combat operations.

"The more they know now, the smoother the process goes," said Lt. Col. Steven Biggs, 37th BS commander. "We flew more than 20 training missions from (Oct. 25) to (Oct. 28), with the JTACs directing us from the ground. It is invaluable to have them train out here with us, after working so closely with them in theater."

The JTACs assisted B-1B Lancers crews in the exercise by providing real-time data on simulated targets via a link between the aircraft's Sniper advanced targeting pod and a laptop on the ground. The pod's video feed gives JTACs a bird's eye view of the target area, including any hostile forces which may present a threat to the B-1 or nearby ground forces."

"It's really awesome to have this downlink," said 1st RCHA Sgt. Aaron Cutler, a JTAC. "The sniper pod has so much more fidelity than ground imaging."

With the amount of time B-1 aircrews spend working with the Canadian JTACs downrange, Lt. Col. Biggs said he considered this chance to provide realistic training to be a golden opportunity.

"It was a phenomenal experience for both parties," Colonel Biggs said. "The level of realism the JTACs brought to the scenarios is exactly what we need to excel downrange."

The spontaneity and adaptability of both the B-1 aircrews and the JTACs enhanced the realism of the exercise, said Maj. Jan-Peter Linch, the 28th Bomb Wing weapons officer.
The close-air support, and high-altitude bombing missions they practiced brought new insights into potential communication problems that could arise during a deployment.

"This training improves communication," he said. "The more realistically we train and the more we incorporate other services, the easier it will be to find that harmonious communication during combat."

That harmonious communication comes from the intense training both the JTACs and aircrews experience together. Major Linch said during a combat operation, everyone is checking and double checking information to ensure mistakes aren't made.

"The aircrew needs to trust the JTACS, and the JTACs have to trust the aircrew," Major Linch said. "In combat, there are literally minutes, sometimes seconds, to establish that confidence. This is why realistic training is so essential."