YUMA, Ariz. --
Air-to-ground tactics and war-fighting techniques are a part of the Corps’ dynamic approach to combat. Based on the Marine Air Ground Task Force concept, combat elements in the air and on land work together to bombard the enemy with unrelenting firepower.
A select group of Marines exists with the surgeon-like ability to call for that aggressive airborne support at a moment's notice. As part of Exercise Scorpion Fire 2013, an experienced team of joint terminal attack controllers, or JTACs, with 3RD Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company Marine Forces Reserve, based out of the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Bell, Calif., set up shop in the middle of the Sonoran Desert in order to hone their unique air-arsenal directive skills, Aug. 11-16.
“This training encompasses the primary JTAC duties. As a JTAC, you’re going to call in close air support and, with teams like forward observers, call in indirect fires,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Oraker, the unit air officer with 3rd ANGLICO and a native of Burlington, Wash. “The whole purpose of the JTAC is to provide terminal control on enemy targets.”
Using geographical analysis and a precise system of communication, the JTAC team members set out to practice their rotary and fixed-wing fire support calls through attack briefs known as 9-lines. The 9-line is a list of data gathered by the JTAC to guide a pilot in the air with all of the necessary information to destroy the enemy.
A JTAC takes different variables into consideration when making a call for fire. Method of engagement, distance to the target, visual terrain, weather conditions, available assets and ally positioning are some of the factors they consider before delivering a 9-line.
“There’s a lot of different aspects to it when you’re doing fixed wing, rotary wing - different combinations of weapons and tactics that you use. Controlling those aircrafts is a very perishable skill and it’s very easy to forget those skills if you’re not practicing with them,” said Capt. Jonathan Stroschine, a forward air controller with 3rd ANGLICO. “We can train in a simulator, and that helps a lot, but nothing beats coming out here and talking to an aircraft, making it all come together in a real-life environment.”
Scorpion Fire included night missions, featuring UH-1Y and AH-1Z attack helicopters simulating different scenarios that carried an array of munitions. Through infrared sensors and night vision binoculars, the JTAC’s guided the aircraft that lit up the dark sky with tracers from guided rockets, bullets and bombs.
“It’s the premier use of coordinated measures,” said Sgt. Peter Martinez, a joint fires observer with 3RD ANGLICO and a native of Bakersfield, Calif. “It’s what we Marines are intended to do. The MAGTF concept is seasoned and perfected with all of the different coordination measures that we can effectively employ – and this is a perfect example of that.”
For the seven-man 3rd ANGLICO team, making it all come together meant getting as much down-range, steel-on-steel target contact as possible. As a JTAC unit, their mission capabilities include supporting the ground force commanders’ intent to generate suppression fire, stopping enemy advancement, or providing surveillance clearance for allies.
3RD ANGLICO JTAC units can bridge their assets over to foreign forces and provide them with valuable tactical warfare, enabling our international allies to benefit from Marine protective fires.
“Being able to bring everyone together is really what ANGLICO is all about. We can take this small team and we can embed it with different services or different countries,” said Stroschine, a native of Mehama, Ore. “That’s one of the really unique things about ANGLICO – it gives that foreign country or that other service the ability to call in air support.”
For six scorching days, JATCs spent their time at range 2507, training for missions that called for specific courses of action and unforgiving firepower. This year’s Scorpion Fire exercise afforded them an opportunity to work through the searing heat, the dust and mountainous desert terrain in order to cultivate their combat skills for the day when duty may call.