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NEWS | Feb. 27, 2024

Air National Guard Unit Trains for any Situation

By Joseph Siemandel, Washington National Guard

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – When U.S. Army Special Forces enter dangerous situations, they often aren’t alone.

“Our job as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) or Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) is to integrate with the Army. Wherever they go, we go – whether by tank, armor, or jumping out of a plane. We are there too,” said Tech. Sgt. Eric Flores, 116th Air Support Operations Squadron. “We have to train for whatever to be ready.”

In early February, that is exactly what the special operations airmen of the 111th and 116th Air Support Operations Squadrons, 194th Wing did. The highly specialized unit took part in Operation Sulaco. This two-day refresher training covered static line parachuting and small team tactics at Fairchild Air Force Base near Airway Heights, Wash. The training allowed the airmen to focus not only on getting better but also on building confidence.

“[Jumping] is a skill we have to hone and be fresh on. We have to be ready at any point in time,” said Flores. “On a more personal level, it is just overcoming your fears, proving to yourself you can do it.”

While the same can be said for tactical movements on the ground, it is very different.

“We conducted close air support along with small unit tactics. We went into buildings, cleared objectives, and conducted close air support, dropping bombs in the vicinity of fellow troops,” said Staff Sgt. Xazier Archuleta, 116th Air Support Operations Squadron. “This training is super important. You are going to be in multiple areas and train for what you are going to be fighting in.”

Air Support Operations Squadron airmen bring much to the fight during special operations. As the communications and coordination link between the Army ground commander and Air Force combat assets, JTACs and TACP members are close air support experts advising ground commanders on the use of Air Force assets in combat. JTACs also serve as forward air controllers, winning battles by guiding weapons onto targets.

“Training in an environment you have never been in is important, but building that team, building that team bonding, building that unit is super important,” said Archuleta. “I think every TACP out here, every person out here can bring back something, whether it be communication, tactics or just shooting in general. You can bring that back to the unit.”



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