JTACs improve warfighting capabilities at Saber Strike 18
By Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike, United States Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs
/ Published June 12, 2018
ADAZI, Latvia– --
While aircraft are in the sky waiting for a call, a small group of Airmen on the ground move to a vantage point and survey the battlefield. Their job is to identify targets and their locations providing pilots the means to support the friendlies on the ground.
These Airmen are Joint Terminal Attack Controllers.
“One of the key aspects for these guys is precision” said Senior Master Sgt. Perry Jackson, 122nd Air Support Operations Squadron observer controller. “Precision is very important, because they provide assistance to friendly forces.”
During Saber Strike 18, JTACs from the U.S., Latvia, Estonia, Norway, Italy, Spain and other partnered nations worked together to learn new skills, perspectives, and to strengthen communication and relations between each other.
“(Saber Strike) is a partnership environment where we can train with foreign JTACs who may have learned something different from some other training course,” said Master Sgt. Chuck Barth, Grayling Air Gunnery Range JTAC Instructor. “Not only do they get good training, but we also get good training to improve our skillset.”
The JTAC skillset is heavily dependent on communication, task management, and integration due to the amount of information the controllers receive and transmit.
“Another thing that stands out about JTACs, relates to Gen. Goldfein’s outlook on the importance of data,” said Maj. J.R. Gibbens, 122nd ASOS air liaison officer. “These guys are the data hub on the battlefield. More information needs to be passed, and they are controlling that information and integrating it with our forces.”
According to Barth, Saber Strike began as a JTAC centric platform which brought in Aircraft to Latvia in support of the JTAC program that was being built years ago.
“Saber Strike was started for close air support training for JTACS and as it has evolved, it has pulled in these other maneuver units and fire units,” said Barth. “Now we have foreign nations training with artillery and mortars, ground -surface fire, integrated with jet fighters. It is a rare thing to have an artillery target next to a close air support target where those two munitions can fire the same target at the same time. This a very well driven exercise.”
As Saber Strike has evolved, so has the ability to train JTACs as a joint force with partner nations.
“We train with them and we work together; it’s all about joint,” said Barth. “We have to go out to the range and (train together), because voices sound different, accents are different, and words are different.”
While sharing their knowledge with each other, JTACs continue to build on the ability to maintain security in the region.
“(Saber Strike) is a really excellent exchange of experience,” Capt. Rihards Zalitis, Latvian Armed Forces Range Control Officer. “It makes our job easier to do and helps us to be better prepared for any unwanted incidents.”