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Air Force, Army collaborate during joint training

Airman 1st Class Christopher Beeson, 3d Air Support Operations Group Tactical Air Control Party specialist, smiles prior to co-directing an air strike during a rotation at Ft. Irwin, California’s National Training Center, Feb. 20, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Airman 1st Class Christopher Beeson, 3d Air Support Operations Group Tactical Air Control Party specialist, smiles prior to co-directing an air strike during a rotation at Ft. Irwin, California’s National Training Center, Feb. 20, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing communicate target locations to pilots during a live-bomb exercise as part of Ft. Irwin, California’s National Training Center pre-deployment rotation, Feb. 22, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing communicate target locations to pilots during a live-bomb exercise as part of Ft. Irwin, California’s National Training Center pre-deployment rotation, Feb. 22, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Staff Sgt. Michael Laird, National Training Center Joint Terminal Attack Controller observer, coach and trainer, radios in moving-target threats to pilots during a live-bomb exercise as part of Ft. Irwin, California’s NTC pre-deployment rotation, Feb. 22, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Staff Sgt. Michael Laird, National Training Center Joint Terminal Attack Controller observer, coach and trainer, radios in moving-target threats to pilots during a live-bomb exercise as part of Ft. Irwin, California’s NTC pre-deployment rotation, Feb. 22, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Live-bombs delivered by aircraft from the guidance of 93d Air Ground Operations Wing Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, explode on a simulated battlefield during a rotation at Ft. Irwin, California’s, National Training Center, Feb. 22, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Live-bombs delivered by aircraft from the guidance of 93d Air Ground Operations Wing Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, explode on a simulated battlefield during a rotation at Ft. Irwin, California’s, National Training Center, Feb. 22, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Senior Airman Joseph Schwartz, 14th Air Support Operations Squadron Joint Terminal Attack Controller, communicates target locations to pilots during a close-air support exercise as part of a Ft. Irwin, Califor., National Training Center rotation, Feb. 22, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Senior Airman Joseph Schwartz, 14th Air Support Operations Squadron Joint Terminal Attack Controller, communicates target locations to pilots during a close-air support exercise as part of a Ft. Irwin, Califor., National Training Center rotation, Feb. 22, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon soars over a mountain ridge in the Mojave Desert during pre-deployment training as part of a National Training Center rotation at Ft. Irwin, Calif., Feb. 20, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon soars over a mountain ridge in the Mojave Desert during pre-deployment training as part of a National Training Center rotation at Ft. Irwin, Calif., Feb. 20, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

An Army AH-64 Apache Guard flies past U.S. Army soldiers in the Mojave Desert mountains while staking out a simulated battlefield during a rotation at Ft. Irwin, California’s National Training Center, Feb. 23, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

An Army UH-60 Blackhawk flies past U.S. Army soldiers in the Mojave Desert mountains during a training rotation at Ft. Irwin, California’s National Training Center, Feb. 23, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Senior Airman Nicholas Ward, left, and fellow 3d Air Support Operations Group Tactical Air Control Party specialist Airman 1st Class Jaron Maddox, records target threat areas to relay to pilots during a close-air support exercise as part of a Ft. Irwin, Calif. National Training Center rotation, Feb. 20, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

Senior Airman Nicholas Ward, left, and fellow 3d Air Support Operations Group Tactical Air Control Party specialist Airman 1st Class Jaron Maddox, records target threat areas to relay to pilots during a close-air support exercise as part of a Ft. Irwin, Calif. National Training Center rotation, Feb. 20, 2018. During the month-long rotation, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing units embedded with approximately 4,000 soldiers in the largest force-on-force live-fire exercise in the world. The 93d AGOW provided tactical air control party support to enhance interoperability for major combat operations downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

FT. IRWIN, Calif. --

In the heart of Mojave Desert in southeastern California, U.S. Army ground forces engage in fierce combat with mock insurgents. As the grueling battle intensified with no standstill in sight, these combat warriors remained confident knowing aerial support was a radio’s call away.

To the ground troop’s relief, loud booms overpowered the sounds of their gunfire as rapidly approaching aircraft wreaked havoc on their simulated targets with live-bombs, thanks to Air Force Tactical Air Control Parties (TACP) coordinating air strikes. 

Championing conflicts like these during rotation training at Ft. Irwin, California’s National Training Center, Feb. 19-23, allowed soldiers and the participating 93d Air Ground Operation Wing’s TACPs to enhance their interoperability and proficiency.

The month-long rotation positioned 93d AGOW assets to take advantage of the world’s largest force-on-force live-fire exercise.

“There is no other place to fully integrate and train at the brigade level, with all the services against a near-peer adversary in realistic combat conditions with live ammunition than here,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Wesley Bradford, 12th Combat Training Squadron commander. “For major combat operations, the synchronization and integration must be trained to (standard), and the (National Training Center) is the perfect place to enhance these skills.”

For Bradford, NTC’s harsh conditions and the surrounding Mojave Desert makes it the ideal place to get soldiers ready for combat.

He added that NTC’s platform coincides with the motto of “Train the Force.” The NTC supported Gen. Patton’s readiness prior to World War II and prepared Army and Air Force units to deploy monthly. Exemplifying the importance of interoperability, on July 8, 1941, Patton stated -- “to get the harmony in music, each instrument must support the others.  To get harmony in battle, each weapon must support the other. Team play wins.”

“The (Air Force’s) Green Flag and (Army’s) NTC assets bring together this team play and champion’s joint integration in order to maximize combat effectiveness,” said Bradford. “Every soldier will leave here prepared for combat. We will ensure their toughest day in combat takes place here, at the National Training Center, and not downrange.”

For the participating Air Force TACPs, their hardest training days occurred in the chilly mountain ridges during the final week of the rotation. As harsh winds blew freezing breezes, they were challenged as new developments rapidly occurred on the battlefield, forcing them to rely on contingency plans while they assisted pilots to control the airspace and protect ground assets.

“The biggest challenge during this rotation was coordinating with Army assets and synchronizing the live-artillery and close-air support aspects to ensure the proper targets are struck during the live-bomb training,” said SSgt. Kenneth Leo, NTC JTAC observer, coach, and trainer.

According to Leo, embracing the challenge of a JTAC is all worth it, adding that the best part of the job is seeing the ‘booms’ and hours of strategizing go as planned.

“It’s great to see our targets explode,” said Leo. “All the effort and coordination involved as a live-fire planner is to make sure that the Army can fully utilize the maximum training efforts we provide at NTC.”

Knowing the critical position that the JTAC’s play, Leo was proud of how impactful their operations were.

“We enable the Army to maneuver a battlefield with close-air support to (compliment) their weapons such as gunfire and mortars,” said Leo. “By coordinating close-air support, we can enable ground troops to be more efficient by directing firepower at a moment’s notice in the proximity of friendly forces.

“It’s a great honor to see us help save and help the friendly forces on the ground, it’s what I signed up for,” Leo added. “To help observe, coach and train JTACs and soldiers as they prepare to deploy with the world’s best training is the biggest reward.”

While the benefit of a successfully enhancing the readiness of military personnel during a large-scale exercise is gratifying, Leo knows to take the lessons learned to better equip the next rotation.

“I’m looking forward to improving on my skills as an observer, coach and trainer, and NTC is the perfect platform to accomplish this” said Leo. “That’s why NTCs ability to execute firepower across the services makes the U.S. Armed Forces the best in the world – we put the most lethally trained military members on the battlefield.”

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