Day 2 started out with the opportunity to learn more about the scope of Atlantic Strike VII as well as view some of the technology being used out in the exercise. I had a chance to sit down with Maj. Raymond Brennan, the Atlantic Strike exercise director, and have him give me some insight into the background of Atlantic Strike. “One of the things that is unique about this event is that it that it is primarily run by people with very recent combat experience. We have over 20 JTAC instructors from Air Force and Coalition partners; all of whom have recent combat experience in Iraq or Afghanistan. You are taking that experience to drive the training environment so it’s always updated every 6 months.”
In addition to the expertise provided by the skilled instructors, there is the latest generation of the digital battlefield being used for training for the JTACs. “6 months later, Digital CAS Ops with the TACP CAS MRTs is being integrated in all four operation areas. [NorthTac, SouthTac, Urban, and Convoy] We are the first and only large event to broadly integrate the use of Digital CAS Operations. The software version they loaded up for this event has been just introduced and is the first time the JTACs are using it. And to try to incorporate it into four different training areas as well as running the ASOC operations is a significant update.”
“One other new addition to this event is the Brigade TOC (“Tactical Operations Center”) to try and simulate what most of the JTACs will do with their time when they go to Iraq. Roughly 80% of their time with be spent in a command and control center with the Army commander monitoring operational areas. So to try and replicate that on a tactical level for us, we setup a Brigade TOC next to the ASOC who have their Digital CAS, ROVER video equipment, satellite capability, and now they can monitor all 4 operational areas. They will maintain situational awareness, support as needed, and potentially conduct strikes with type 2 close air support with the equipment they have.” explained Maj Brennan.
I then spent the rest of the day and night back at NorthTac. Having the opportunity to be along side the Army Platoon and JTACs really gave me the sense of what perils these guys and girls face in battle. But what really hit home was being there for the night exercise.
Even with a moon dancing in and out of the clouds, it was pitch black. And the Blue Force (the “Good” guys) had the odds stacked against them.
With trip wires and booby traps set, the team still trekked on.
But they were not alone. Up in the skies, the JTACs had the mighty AC-130 Gunship and two A-10 Warthogs as their eyes and guns. Unfortunately, as in real battle, these were not safe from attack either.
But you train like you’re fighting and fight like you trained. And each lesson learned will sharpen the skills of everyone who participated and prepare them for the fight that lies ahead.
Tune in tomorrow for my finally entry on the aircraft supporting Atlantic Strike VII.