MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Members of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force recently spent time immersing with the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing.
The NATO allies visiting were Joint Terminal Attack Controllers tasked with building stronger ties with the 93rd AGOW in hopes of future integration opportunities.
“All the missions overseas aren’t integrating just the U.S. Armed Forces but also our NATO forces,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Francisco Corona, 93rd AGOW NCO in charge of weapons and tactics. “So, all the NATO forces are trying to train with us. I’d rather integrate in [training] where we can make mistakes and learn from them instead of making mistakes in a deployed location.”
Since the war on terror began in 2001, U.S. and foreign JTACs have been in high demand as liaisons between Army ground commanders and Air Force assets.
“As air-ground experts, we advise, assist and control for the ground commander to meet his intent, whether its kinetic effects, like bombs on targets, or getting smarter at cyberspace,” Corona said.
Both the U.K. and U.S. JTACs said they’re no stranger to operating in coalition settings while deployed.
“While I was a JTAC in Afghanistan, the vast majority of our aircraft were U.S. aircraft,” said RAF Squadron Leader Neil Beeston, officer commanding of the Air Land Integration Cell. “It was great working with the U.S. Armed Forces, especially with the A-10s; it’s a fantastic aircraft. The troops on the ground knew that when you’ve got a pair of them above you, you’re in pretty safe hands.”
While both the U.K. JTACs and U.S. aircraft are skilled professionals, sometimes communication barriers exist between countries. Beeston’s colleague stressed the importance of hashing out common issues.
“The whole worldwide JTAC community has the same struggles,” said RAF Flight Sergeant Simon Ballard, chief instructor from the ALIC. “Since we’re going to be working together, we need to practice together before we go do that in the real world.”
Not having the allied JTAC community in sync and on par with each other could potentially lead to less-than-optimal situations, which in turn risk lives.
“We don't want to learn how to work together in a war area of operations,” Corona said. “We’re flexible though, whether it’s the U.K. JTACs or whatever joint force JTACs, we make things happen and we’ll make it work.”
After the gathering, the U.K. troops returned to their leadership with proposals and plans to further integrate training scenarios, whether it be academic courses or mixing into each countries’ exercises to further synchronization.
“The bonus for them is they’d be integrating with different Army divisions because the 93rd AGOW is spread over at least six Army divisions,” Corona said. “They’d get that opportunity, where there’s not many divisions they work with over in the U.K.
“It’s the best of both worlds for both sides of the house because we’d get opportunities to work with NATO allied aircraft versus just U.S. aircraft,” he continued.
While Corona is confident in U.S. JTACs, he said it’s all about continuing to get better and to maintain leading from the front.
“We’re figuring out how we go to the next level to continue to be the best JTACs in the world,” Corona said. “We’re going forward with a proficiency mindset, of ‘how do we get better,’ because at the end of the day, the better trained individuals are going to be the winners.”