GRAYLING, Mich. - As U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Nick Barth, a loadmaster with the 169th Airlift Squadron, Peoria, Ill., prepares a standard airdrop training bundle on a C-130 Hercules during Exercise Northern Strike on Aug. 6, 2013, he reflects on what his dad told him right before his deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Whenever you are re-supplying troops in the field, put a care package in the bundle that says 'for the JTAC only,'" said Nick Barth quoting his father.
Nick Barth's father is U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Barth, a joint terminal air controller for more than 25 years with the 182nd Air Support Operations Group, Peoria, Ill. Chuck Barth knows all about how important those re-supply airdrop bundles are in the field. However, to receive a personal package only for the JTAC is like gold, he says.
Nick Barth remembers dropping his father off at the Greater Peoria Air National Guard Base for many different deployments and wanted to follow along his family's tradition of serving in the military. With advice from his dad, Nick Barth decided three years ago to join the Air National Guard.
What makes the basic airdrop different is that Chuck Barth will be controlling the drop that his son will be releasing. They have never had the opportunity to work together until Northern Strike at Grayling Air and Gunner Range, Alpena, Mich.
As Nick Barth finishes his checklist, he slides in a handwritten note that he knows his father will receive when he collects the deployed bundle.
During the control with the C-130 at Grayling Gunnery Range, Chuck Barth knows he is not directly speaking to his son, but knows he can relay a message from the pilot.
"Hey Torch, tell the load in number two hi," says Chuck Barth over the radio.
With the bundle safely landing near the desired controlled spot, Chuck Barth heads out to retrieve the bundle, and like habit, checks for any "For JTAC only" packages.
As the Northern Strike exercise continued, another opportunity came up for the Barths to work together: a distinguished visitors day where Chuck Barth would be controlling aircraft at the Grayling Gunnery Range. This time, Nick Barth, who was scheduled for a down day, took the opportunity to watch his father in action so he could get the true understanding of what a JTAC does.
Both Barths might not have another opportunity to work so closely together again, but the memory is one that they can share together for a lifetime.