ATLANTIC CITY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.J. — U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots from the 104th Fighter Squadron in Middle River, Maryland, and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) from Estonia and the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron in Oklahoma City participated in close air support training under the State Partnership Program Dec. 1-5 at the Warren Grove Gunnery Range in New Jersey.
The range in Warren Grove is a training area for military aircraft, including A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and F-16 Fighting Falcons from East Coast Air National Guard units, for practice bombing and strafing.
"The Warren Grove range is one of the few Air National Guard ranges in the country primarily for fixed-wing Air National Guard assets," said Lt. Col. Gregory Poston, the Warren Grove Range commander. "We almost always have JTACS on the range, from all over."
JTACs from Estonia worked with Air Force JTACs to train and hone each other's abilities in the field of close air support. Close air support consists of air action by fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft against hostile targets close to friendly forces. It requires detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces.
"Our bread and butter is controlling close air support, but we support any ground maneuver element with any type of fire, whether it be naval service fires, surface-to-surface, or air-to-ground, which is our primary focus this week," said Tech. Sgt. Timothy L. Davis, 146th Air Support Operations Squadron standards and evaluations program manager. "It's what I've done for the last 11 years."
While Davis has been a JTAC for 11 years, he's worked with JTACs from Estonia for a good portion of that time.
"It's a yearly training we do," said Davis. "We've been partnered up with the Estonians for five years now."
The unified training between Estonia and the United States was formed through the State Partnership Program, a tool the Department of Defense has used to build relationships with over 80 nations. The unification of the 146th ASOS and the Estonian JTACs has been mediated by the 175th Wing of the Maryland Air National Guard. The 175th Wing is the official State Partnership Program counterpart to Estonia.
"Oklahoma is one of the few states that doesn't have a true state partnership on the Air Force side," said Davis. "We happened to be working with the 104th Fighter Squadron when they went to Estonia in 2015, so we tagged along with the A-10 squadron and happened to run into the guys from Estonia. The partnership was built there on the spot, and since then it's been a good relationship. We helped their program, and they've worked with us multiple times every year since."