ATLANTIC CITY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.J. --
U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II Pilots from the 104th Fighter Squadron located in Middle River, Maryland, and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) from Estonia and from the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, participated in close air support training under the State Partnership Program Dec. 1 - 5, 2020 at the Warren Grove Gunnery Range in Warren Grove, N.J.
The Warren Grove Gunnery Range is a training area for military aircraft, including A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and F-16 Fighting Falcons from East Coast Air National Guard units, for practice bombing and strafing.
“The Warren Grove range is one of the few Air National Guard ranges in the country primarily for fixed-wing Air National Guard assets,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Poston, the Warren Grove Range commander. “We almost always have JTACS on the range, from all over.”
In December, JTACs from Estonia worked with Air Force JTACs to train and hone each other's abilities in the field of close air support.
Close air support consists of air action by fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces and requires detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces.
“Our ‘bread and butter’ is controlling close air support, but we support any ground maneuver element with any type of fire, whether it be naval service fires, surface-to-surface, or air-to-ground, which is our primary focus this week,” said Tech. Sgt. Timothy L. Davis, 146th Air Support Operations Squadron standards and evaluations program manager. “It’s what I’ve done for the last 11 years.”
While Davis has been a JTAC for 11 years, he’s been partnered up with JTACs from Estonia for a good portion of that time, partnering up annually.
“It’s a yearly training we do,” said Davis. “We’ve been partnered up with the Estonians for 5 years now.”
The unified training between Estonia and the United States was formed through the State Partnership Program, a tool that the Department of Defense has utilized to build successful relationships with over 80 nations around the globe. However, the unification between the 146th ASOS and the Estonian JTACs has been mediated by the 175th Wing of the Maryland Air National Guard in Middle River, Maryland. The 175th Wing is the official State Partnership Program counterpart to Estonia.
“Oklahoma is one of the few states that doesn’t have a true state partnership on the Air Force side,” said Davis. “We happened to be working with the 104th Fighter Squadron when they went to Estonia in 2015, so we tagged along with the A-10 squadron and happened to run into the guys from Estonia. The partnership was built there on the spot, and since then it’s been a good relationship. We helped their program, and they’ve worked with us multiple times every year since.”