Training with NATO allies promotes standardization
By MSgt. Andrew J. Moseley, 177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 13, 2016
ATLANTIC CITY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.J. -- German armed forces Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) trained with JTACs from the 227th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) at the Warren Grove Bombing Range and at the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard on Feb. 25, 2016.
The five day combined training event included familiarization briefs, hands-on Combat Air Support (CAS) controlling and simulations.
The differences in the way American JTACs train was readily seen by the Germans."
It's incredible that you have all of the JTACS pooled in one position, you have a fighter wing right next to it, and you have a simulator indoors, right around the corner. It's all nice and compact," said 2nd Lt. Michael Barthel, German JTAC from the 26th Airborne Regiment in Zweibrücken, Germany.
Fluent in English, the international language of aviation, the German JTACs appreciated being able to meet and brief with F-16 fighter pilots from the 177th FW prior to training.
"Training assets are more spread out over the country of Germany, which makes it more difficult to work on the Combat Air Support sequence from start to finish," said Barthel. "We know the pilots are going to show up at some point overhead of the training area, but actually meeting with them face to face is really hard because they'll be taking off somewhere in the north of Germany and we practice in the south. You might get a phone call....that's what amazes me."
The German JTACs are part of their country's army, including artillery and airborne units, unlike the U.S. JTACs, who are part of the U.S. Air Force.
Master Sgt. Johannes Pszolla, JTAC with the 131st Artillery Battalion in Weiden, Germany, is stationed at Grafenwoehr Training Area and also commented on the differences in training stating, "We often work with Apache Helicopters from Spangdahlem, sometimes A-10s, but the play time with the F-16 is not that much due to the transit time."
The American JTAC program has some similarities to the German army JTACs. U.S. JTACs supplement the Army ground commander with a Joint Fires Observer, an Army member who can do just about everything a JTAC can do, such as passing nine line reports and lazing targets, but doesn't have weapons release authority.
"Having our NATO allies here, and when we go to train with them, is really good because we want to standardize...we all want to be on the same page, because that breaks down those barriers that we used to have, where, even the Air Force and the Army on the U.S. side didn't talk to each other," said Lt. Col. Albert Danza, commander of the 227th ASOS. "Now we're speaking to German, Dutch and British JTACs on the ground and we have all different airframes from all over the world that you could be flying with so it's good that we standardize and get all on the same page."
The five day combined training exercise included an F-16 familiarization brief and training in the 227th's new $1.2 million Air National Guard Advanced JTAC Training System.
"It's pretty nice to use the simulator with our own night vision devices...there are huge possibilities," said armed forces JTAC 1st Lt. Tim Jantzen, with the 131st Artillery Battalion. "It seems pretty realistic....maybe they could add more grass or bushes in the distance, but it fulfills its purpose, absolutely. It was a great experience."
"The J in JTAC stands for Joint, so the thing we focus on is being able to speak Air Force to the Army guys and translate what the F-16 is saying to the Army ground commander," said Danza. "The JTAC can clear hot with final control authority, something we think we're best suited to do."