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Italian Air Force and Green Flag West
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.-- Capt. Gianluigi Colucci and Capt. Marco Faggiani, Italian air force flight leads and Green Flag West participants, prepare their final mission plan for the Air Force's Green Flag West exercise, here, and the Army's National Training Center based in Fort Irwin, Calif. Green Flag West exercises provide close air support training of high desert armored warfare between other military services and allies of the United States. (Photo by Casey Bain, JFIIT/USJFCOM)
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Integrated training with USJFCOM and the Italian air force

Posted 9/10/2009   Updated 9/11/2009 Email story   Print story


by Casey Bain

9/10/2009 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.  -- The U.S. Army and Air Force have been working hard to improve joint and coalition training at the Army's National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, Calif., and the Air Force's Green Flag West (GFW), here, according to senior leaders at the combat training center (CTC).

The most recent exercise marked the first time that Italian warfighters have participated in maneuvers at the CTC. The country provided 10 AMX/A-1 close air support (CAS) aircraft, 34 pilots, six joint terminal attack controllers (JTAC) and a variety of support personnel.

Helping to integrate this training were members of U.S. Joint Forces Command's (USJFCOM) Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team (JFIIT).

"NTC and the Air Force's Green Flag are great examples of how we can link traditional service-level exercises into one well-synchronized joint training event that benefits all participants and services," said Army Maj. Richard Meredith, JFIIT lead at NTC.

This exercise included the use of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

"We've expanded Green Flag to include both the MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers, which are, depending on who you ask, the most important ISR platforms for conducting full spectrum operations in a counterinsurgency environment," said Army Brig. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams, commanding general, NTC and Ft. Irwin. "So when you ask how important is it to integrate joint assets here, it's not a level of importance - it's essential."

JFIIT assisted the integration of a variety of joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets between the Army's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 3rd Infantry Division and aerial assets from both nations.

"Our mission is to help integrate ISR assets with an Army BCT so that the unit can learn how to leverage the capabilities of these assets that they otherwise won't see until they arrive in country," added Major Meredith. "This exercise teaches our forces how to work together to defeat an irregular threat."

Italian air force Col. AArnn Pil. Giorgio Foltran, commander of the Italian detachment at GFW, explained the importance of his country's participation.

"This exercise has been a great opportunity for our aircrews to discuss different tactics and techniques with American pilots," said Colonel Foltran. "We're learning lots of lessons to take with us when we return home including how to provide CAS for a U.S. Army brigade during convoy escort missions, in an urban environment, and while using UAS."

"We want a realistic assessment of our pilots, JTACs and our entire team," said Italian air force Lt. Col. Andrea Amadori, 132nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "The feedback that we're receiving from this exercise has been outstanding. It demonstrates the strength of our military partnership and the importance of training together to learn from each other."

According to NTC leadership, experts from organizations like JFIIT and others enhance the integration of joint assets and provide vital resources to help educate units on how to use the available capabilities of the entire joint and coalition team.

"The single most important capability that we have to train the joint force is our people," said General Abrams. "It's the observer controllers, opposing forces, contractors, cultural role players and all our joint partners. It's the people aspect that makes the difference and sets us apart from everybody else in the world."

General Abrams said NTC's primary focus and mission is to provide realistic training reflective of the operational climates to which units are preparing to deploy.

"Our charter now, since late 2003, is to create an operational environment that reflects what's going on in theater - as a rehearsal exercise - a mission rehearsal exercise for units going to combat," he said. "This is the place where we can train our brigades how to use air assets and train our tactical air controllers how to fight in a full up, competitive, realistic environment with a BCT to leverage their air breathing and non-air breathing capabilities."

NTC and GFW provide services with a realistic and rigorous training venue, preparing them to fight as a joint and coalition team.

"It's not about us - it's about creating one seamless team," said Air Force Lt. Col. John Walker, GFW commander and the 549th Combat Training Squadron, here.  "Where we really earn our money is integrating our close air support capabilities with the Army and a BCT. There's learning on both sides, but it pays big dividends to our forces once they are deployed."

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