Sharpening skills

Published 7:54 pm Thursday, October 8, 2009

FT. POLK, La. — U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team helped Army, Air Force and Navy warfighters hone their close-air support skills during a recent exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center here.

The training, led by JRTC’s Operations Group and Green Flag East with support from JFIIT, focused units on improving mission-essential CAS skills used during upcoming deployments.

The Army’s 1st Special Forces Group from Fort Lewis, Wash., joint fire obervers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; Air Force joint terminal attack controllers from the 19th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Campbell, Ky.; and the Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron 11 at Naval Air Station-Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., partnered to conduct pre-deployment training.

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“This is the best pre-deployment training that we’ve ever experienced,” said Navy Cmdr. J.J. Cummings, commander, Strike Fighter Squadron 11. “I can’t wait to get back and tell the other skippers about it, so they can take advantage of this exceptional training opportunity.”

The training incorporated CAS situational training exercise lanes so Army special forces soldiers could work closely with JFOs, JTACs, and Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircrews to improve their emergency CAS tactics, techniques and procedures for patrolling in an urban environment.

“This has been a great opportunity to work with JTACs and CAS pilots just as we will in theater,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Cudlich, 1st Special Forces Group. “This is about as real as it gets until we deploy. Learning how to utilize CAS properly will be vital to our success in theater, and this training will go a long way in helping us achieve that goal.”

“This has been just like a no-kidding deployment to us,” Cummings said. “Being able to practice putting down fire in an urban environment near the proximity of friendly forces is something that makes our entire team better.”

“Ensuring all warfighters understand the capabilities and limitations of each system operating in the battlespace is crucial,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Rhude Cherry III, commander, GFE and the 548th Combat Training Squadron, Fort Polk, La. “We reinforce the right process and best practices from units currently in theater to teach units how to achieve the ground commander’s desired effects on the battlefield.”

According to senior leaders at JRTC, it is more important than ever to integrate joint assets at the combat training center.

“You can’t just talk about integrating joint assets,” said Brig. Gen. James C. Yarbrough, commanding general, JRTC and Fort Polk. “You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it slow, you’ve got to do it fast, you’ve got to do it at night, and you’ve got to make mistakes. That’s how you learn. Units come here expecting to train jointly, and it’s up to us to deliver.”