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NEWS | June 5, 2024

Idaho National Guard, German JTACs Train Together

By Mike Freeman, Idaho Army National Guard

JUNIPER BUTTE RANGE, Idaho - In 2015, an enlisted Idaho Air National Guardsman and a German Army lieutenant attended the same Joint Terminal Attack Controller Qualification Course and began a friendship that has had international implications for the past eight years. 

The two engaged in a series of conversations throughout their time at the course, resulting in a lasting partnership between the Idaho National Guard and the German military.

Master Sgt. Justin Clark, a senior Airman at the time, is now a JTAC program coordinator with the 124th Air Support Operations Squadron. Clark said he immediately began looking for opportunities to bring the lieutenant’s unit to Idaho upon his return from the course. He said his unit commander’s support was key to guiding him through coordinating and facilitating the German JTAC unit’s first visit to Gowen Field in the spring of 2016. The unit has returned every year since.

“The win, where it gets better every year, is the partnership,” said Clark. “We share lessons learned, and everyone’s experience culminates to make both parties better.”

This year, soldiers and airmen from Germany’s Joint Terminal Attack Controller Competence Center partnered with the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Fighter Wing to conduct close air support training at the Saylor Creek and Juniper Butte Ranges in Idaho May 1-18. 

Idaho Army National Guard UH-60 pilots and crew supported portions of the training, adding another layer of realism to the German troops’ training and expanding the nearly decade-long partnership. 

The joint training incorporated NATO tactics, techniques, and procedures, using A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft to prosecute targets ranging from armor, artillery, bunkers, simulated enemy combatants, moving targets, surface-to-air threats, and more.

The visiting joint terminal attack controllers coordinate, integrate and direct the actions of combat aircraft engaging in close air support operations and joint fire observers, who augment JTACs by relaying target data. Leading them was Clark’s former classmate, Maj. Andreas Marx. Now a JTAC instructor himself, he said taking advantage of Idaho’s vast military range complex to enhance his unit’s training and further strengthen the international relationship is a win-win partnership.

“The CAS training opportunity that we have here, in conjunction with our partners from the 124th Fighter Wing, is invaluable to us,” Marx said. “We do focus our training very much on large-scale combat operations scenarios in the European theater of operations. Our partnership provides both sides with a common understanding and shared TTPs that will be of utmost importance during possible future conflicts with near-peer enemies.”

Located approximately 43 miles southeast of Gowen Field, Saylor Creek Range offers an impact area 3 miles wide by 6 miles long, where air and ground assets can employ live munitions. The Juniper Butte Range is on 110,000 acres in southern Idaho and is covered with simulated hostile radar facilities, most of which are moveable electronic “threats.“ The range complex consists of two mock surface-to-air missile site targets in two strafe pits, a command site, a mock rail yard protected by two SAM sites, a radar/radio jamming tower, and a range maintenance depot.

Master Sgt. Dennis Goettel, a joint fires platoon sergeant with the German Army, said the training site is unlike anything they have in Germany.

“In Germany, our soldiers never get into realistic situations like they do in Idaho because of training restrictions,” said the platoon sergeant. “It helps our soldiers to see live munitions hit their targets because then they know what they say to pilots really matters.”

 

 

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