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148th mission capabilities tested

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Claire Behney
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing
"Incoming!" echoes throughout the forward operating base as the whistle and explosion of mortars shake the earth. Airmen immediately stop what they're doing, quickly retrieve their weapons, flak vests and helmets and run to their bunker where they begin attempting to make radio contact with their commander to notify of incoming enemy fire.

Five minutes later, "All clear!" echoes throughout the FOB.

This exercise was one of many completed by the Tactical Air Control Party Airman of the 193rd Special Operations Wing's 148th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, Pa., during their four- day field training exercise.

"With the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team and the 55th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, our job is to align with them and support them with close air support," said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Ball, operations superintendent and joint terminal attack controller, 148th ASOS. "So if the Army can't destroy its target with their artillery, tanks or personnel that's where they look to us to call in the fighters or bombers to destroy that target."

Along with providing support to Army ground units, TACPs also oversee communications networks to support air resources.

"As a TACP we're called upon to assist with several different types of missions and different roles of operation in the combat zone," said Senior Airman Brett Rainey, 148th ASOS TACP. "This FTX definitely hit just about every type of mission you could be called upon to do."

The goal for the FTX was just that, to prepare the Airmen for any combat situation they could encounter, exposing them to what they'll see down range. Just as they would during missions, the TACPs were moved through the various team elements, fulfilling the position of medic, platoon leader, radio operator, and the JTEC, Ball said.

As the Airmen rotated through the roles of the different team elements they were challenged with scenarios that tested their skills. During these scenarios the TACPs had to convoy and clear the route; face an enemy ambush; search for improvised explosive devices; clear buildings; and complete resupply, escort and raid missions. The Airmen were pushed through long hours, dark nights, and sleep deprivation to simulate anything they could encounter during a deployment mission.

One scenario required special equipment and skills for the TACPs to complete.

With the moon behind a cloud cover, the TACPs outfitted with night-vision equipment, swept through a conex. "All clear," is shouted as they exit; one conex down, three more too clear in search of the insurgent. It's in the process of clearing the final conex that an assertive "hands up," is yelled as the Airmen locate the insurgent and disarmed him.

"During night engagements, depending on the enemy threat, we can mark ourselves with an infrared chem stick or an infrared strobe, which will show up under night vision goggles, so we can mark ourselves to identify who's friendly and who's enemy," said Staff Sgt. Kyle Evans, 148th ASOS TACP.

Evans said another option the TACPs have during a night mission is their thermal capabilities.

"Before we assault into an area, we can pull out our thermal equipment and view the battlefield and see how many targets and how many insurgents," said Evans. "We're able to identify weapons before the enemy even knows we're there; so it really give us an advantage with our night vision and thermal capabilities."

More than 50 Airmen participated in the FTX and played a role in the scenarios. Along with the main force of TACPs, participants included the various support elements of radio maintenance, supply, vehicle maintenance, and four Lithuanian JTACs, said Ball.

"It seemed flawless and we got a lot of great training out of it because it ran like an actual operation and," said Airman 1st Class Brent Hill, 148th ASOS TACP. "They did a good job meshing everything together to get it to roll from one evolution to another so it never seemed like a training exercise."

Hill said the FTX helped him feel mission prepared by improving his ability to plan under pressure with minimal time while completing a battle plan to execute the team's objectives.
Evans echoed similar sentiments about the effects of the FTX.

"This prepares us for any upcoming deployments and our team unity, as a whole, is pretty much aligned with each other so I think, as a unit, we gained a lot from this FTX," said Evans.