Atlantic Strike provides joint training for interdependent warfighters

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shad Eidson
  • Air Force Print News
Airmen, Marines, Soldiers and Sailors started joint training for air and ground operations as part of Atlantic Strike IV at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla., Oct. 23.

The U.S. Central Command Air Forces semiannual training event takes place on the 106,000-acre bomb range in south central Florida to better prepare aircrews and Air Force joint terminal attack controller for deployments through realistic urban close-air support training.

"Atlantic Strike provides training for joint forces at the tactical level," said Maj. Raymond Brennan, director, Atlantic Strike IV. "It's the most realistic training environment we can provide in the states to prepare them for deployments."

Atlantic Strike IV involves 700 servicemembers throughout four days -- more than double the number of participants in April's Atlantic Strike. This is the first Atlantic Strike to include helicopter airframes for close-air support training. The long loiter times of rotor-wing aircraft is a force multiplier, boosting intelligence gathering for JTACs before they call in an air strike on a hostile target.

The planners used operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom mission reports to create combat scenarios to mirror current threats, including improvised explosive devices, mortar, ambush and sniper attacks.

JTACs, returning from OIF and OEF, also helped plan scenarios.

The use of personal experience to develop tactics, techniques and procedures to increase battlefield effectiveness is seen as a great asset, said Major Brennan, who uses his own experience as the Atlantic Strike III assistant director running the fourth Atlantic Strike training event.

One way that Atlantic Strike helps JTACs gain experience is by integrating the Remote Operated Video Enhanced Receiver system into the training. The system uses multiple sources, including targeting pods on MQ-1 Predators, F-16 Fighting Falcons, and Marine Cobra helicopters to pull live images onto a laptop on the ground.

"Atlantic Strike is one training opportunity for JTACs to use ROVER outside of the combat environment," Major Brennan said.

"What has been lacking is the ability to train with the equipment in the states before troops deploy," the major said. "We're able to provide training for these troops with equipment and joint services here before they get over in-theater so they don't have to learn on the fly."

In an urban environment with ROVER, Soldiers can see everything that is going on around them and not just what is in front of them, said Staff Sgt. Michael McKenna, a JTAC with the 19th Air Support Operations Squadron out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

"You can increase their situational awareness so they can actually take actions to achieve an objective rather than have to react to situation," he said.

Planners are continually adding capabilities to the training event and currently are incorporating Army joint fire observers into the JTAC training teams, Major Brennan said. Since the JFO is a new position within the Army, the training is here is hitting the ground running.

"We are U.S. CENTAF's venue to try and coordinate that training with JTAC and JFOs for air to ground coordination," he said.

"Working together is instrumental in winning the global war. Each service brings something different to the fight," said Navy Lt. Gregory Harkrider, who is overseeing P-3 Orion aircrews training on the aircraft's video download capabilities.

"I think we don't do enough of this (training)," said the exercise officer, assigned to the Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. "Practice makes perfect. The guys are better trained and it's going to save lives and that is the bottom line."