Joint integration vital for Atlantic Strike participants

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Natasha Waggoner
  • U.S. Central Command Public Affairs
The Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team from Joint Forces Command helped Exercise Atlantic Strike V participants improve joint combat effectiveness April 14 to 20 here.

"Through our participation, we are able to help the context of the scenarios and increase joint play," said Marine Corps Col. Lawrence Roberts, the JFIIT commander at Eglin AFB. 

"We are getting the joint fires observers incorporated with the joint terminal attack controllers and making sure they can use their equipment together as well getting them familiar with each other's cultures," Colonel Roberts said. 

Serving as a subordinate, functional command of U.S. Joint Forces Command, JFIIT is tasked with improving the integration, interoperability and effectiveness of joint fires teams. They take a holistic approach to improving joint fires by providing solutions that produce effective target acquisition, command and control, and interoperable firing systems, in a military-wide effort to reduce fratricide and collateral damage.

During Atlantic Strike V, members of the JFIIT team collected anecdotes from seasoned combat JTACs. These experiences, as well as data collected during the training, help to improve tactics, techniques and procedures for the next joint training event and on the battlefield, said Army Sgt. 1st Class David Mahnken, the JFIIT project lead for Atlantic Strike V.

JFIIT's training assessments serve two functions: to gauge a training program's ability to provide a joint training environment, and to assess the effectiveness of the participant's joint task execution.

"JFIIT can help to increase the joint play in a training event -- taking it from a single service event to a more realistic, joint training event or exercise," Sergeant Mahnken said. "Then our team will assist in adding lessons from the battlefield and new ideas we've pulled from our research to create that magic moment in a participant's mind when they say, 'Oh! I see how this is supposed to work.'"

During training, feedback is provided to the training audience and event leadership. Post-exercise evaluations and lessons learned are also documented for the Joint Warfighting Center in the form of findings and recommendations regarding joint task execution and assessment.

"This time around, JFIIT used the lessons learned from previous Atlantic Strike iterations to help plan the current event. Everything has run a lot smoother and we're able to continually add complexity and realism to each event," Sergeant Mahnken said.

Combat experience is helping to illustrate the importance of training in a joint environment and is already leading to a reduction in the number of single-service training events, Colonel Roberts said. For example, new developments in close-air-support software and communications gear have increased the ability for services to work together, while conversely increasing the complexity of military systems and procedures. Interoperability problems often become apparent only when joint forces are in the heat of battle.

"We are learning to fight joint as we're fighting, not as we're training," Colonel Roberts said. "Training events like (Atlantic Strike) are helping us break that."

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