UDAIRI RANGE COMPLEX, Kuwait –
U.S. Armed Forces working together, alongside coalition partners, make for an unrelenting force.
Imagine driving into the unknown, surrounded by a whole lot of nothing – except sand. The feeling of desolation came to mind as a convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles made their way deep into the desert. After what felt like an eternity over barely-there roads, covered in inconspicuous potholes hidden by sand, a small compound decorated with black and white diagonal stripes appeared on the horizon: the final destination.
Upon arrival, U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel were found spread throughout the compound and into the surrounding desert, prepped for training.
Live-fire close air support training was conducted with members assigned to the U.S. Air Force 82nd Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron; Army 1st Battalion, 194th Armor Regiment; Navy UNIT; Marine Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines; and Italian Task Force Typhoon at Udairi Range Complex, Kuwait, May, 26.
Training in a deployed environment not only builds proficiency, it also provides the opportunity to bring together organizations that don’t typically have a lot of face-to face time and to work through communication challenges before the team is put to the test in a real-world situation.
“We’re building relationships with people we could potentially be working with downrange,” said Maj. Jeff Hansen, 82nd EASOS joint terminal attack controller and air liaison officer. “It builds trust. It builds confidence.”
For this iteration of training, artillery Soldiers, along with JTACs and forward air controllers with the U.S. Armed Forces, coordinated a series of tasks that incorporated close air support provided by Italian Eurofighter Typhoon pilots.
“For the [Italian Eurofighter Typhoons], this is a great opportunity to be controlled by U.S. ground controllers,” said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Peter Martinez, 3rd Angelico Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force JTAC. “This experienced allowed us all exposure to different tempos and language barriers.”
With the number of different parties involved, practicing and understanding how to work together to execute the mission is not only essential for success, but for safety as well.
“Particularly when it comes to the aircraft,” Hansen said. “Having the timing perfectly synchronized is fundamental to ensuring the training remains safe since they're flying through a live-gun target line.”
While Soldiers and Marines with the weapons company in the 2nd Battalion and 1st Marines, respectively, fired mortars to orient the pilot’s eyes or suppress enemy fire, JTACs and FACs coordinated with the Eurofighter Typhoon pilots and the weapons company in order to accomplish the training goal: proficiency and confidence.
“It’s the first-time training with [Eurofighter Typhoons] and this gave us a better understanding of their capabilities,” Hansen said. “It also allowed us to broaden our horizons and become a little bit more familiar with how the Army and Marines do what they do, and why they do what they do with the tools they have.”
This blended, complex training allows exposure to different tactics, equipment and capabilities used by other branches, and other militaries, to ensure a streamlined, cohesive process for close air support missions all while creating a single, integrated coalition team protecting our nations.