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TACPs control the sky over D-Day celebrations

CARENTAN, France (AFNS) -- Whenever Soldiers get into a rough spot under fire, they rely on Air Force tactical air control party members among their ranks to provide coordination and communications for vital support from the air -- on target and on time.

Likewise, Airmen also ensure the presence of airpower as Soldiers celebrate their own during the current 70th anniversary of D-Day across Normandy here June 4-8.

Working unseen by audience members and humbly hidden behind the scenes, TACP teams ensure flyovers and parachute drops are orchestrated perfectly with ceremonies and memorial events on the ground -- while they time the arrival of the aircraft with pinpoint accuracy to coincide with the playing of the national anthems or other crucial markers.

“We ensure the aircrews have the right coordinates and current information from the ground,” said Tech. Sgt. Zachary Jacobs, a joint terminal attack controller with the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron of the Washington Air National Guard. “The aircrews can calculate their speed in the air, but we provide all the information they need to get the job done.”

The teams coordinate with municipality officials, air traffic control and keep radio contact to the pilots as the aircrews recalculate their approach to match the TACPs’ guidance from the scene.

Coordinating with a variety of aircraft from C-130 Hercules to B-52 Stratofortesses and fighter jets, the JTACS are in their element as liaisons between blue and green, while French citizens thank Army and Army Air corps veterans for their sacrifices in liberation their country.

“This is exactly who we work for,” Jacobs said. “We may be paid by the Air Force, but we work for the Army. We are the boots on the ground for the Air Force so they know what the Army needs them to do -- that coordination piece is huge for air assault support in the field.”

The battles for Europe in World War II also started the legacy of the TACP career field, Jacobs said.

“The significance for us is that it marks the invention of our career field,” he said. “Close air support came to be understood as something that needed to be controlled efficiently form the ground, which led to the development of our job as JTACs.”

Celebrating the allied veterans that helped liberate Normandy from Nazi occupation in 1944, the anniversary of D-Day is a date of national importance in France and across Europe.

“(Because this is our job) we don’t feel like we’re contributing too much,” said Senior Airman Jason Hoff, also a JTAC with the 16th ASOS. “But it’s an awesome opportunity to be here and see the amazing history all around us.”
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