GILA BEND, Ariz. - About two dozen tactical air control party members from the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, Texas Air National Guard, and four Czech forward air controllers completed a full-mission profile April 16, 2016, in Gila Bend, Arizona, for an annual National Guard State Partnership Program exchange.
The Texas National Guard has been paired with the Czech Republic since 1993 and has completed hundreds of engagements in the U.S. and in the Czech Republic to support the security cooperation objectives of the U.S. European Command commander.
For this year's exercise, the battlefield Airmen were able to mimic a cradle-to-grave, full squadron deployment, combining all war-fighting elements from ground skills to air skills and close air support training with live fire.
"Typically, we piecemeal our training," said Capt. Steven Kroll, 147th ASOS director of operations, so the weeklong deployment allowed the Airmen to merge all their full mission set capabilities within one mock, joint mobilization.
In a typical deployment for a TACP or joint terminal attack controller, the Airman integrates with an Army ground unit and provides the expertise on air power and how to best use it, whether in combat or humanitarian operations.
Once, the TACPs are attached to the Army unit, the commander can task out close air support missions for the Airmen to engage the enemy, neutralize threats and keep the troops on the ground safe by matching the correct ordnance with the targets.
In addition to working with their coalition partners from the Czech Republic, the Texas Airmen worked with active duty A-10s, F-35s and F-16s for live-fire, close air support controls, and with the Arizona National Guard's 2nd Battalion (Assault), 285th Aviation Regiment's UH-60 Blackhawks during a simulated key leader engagement that included airlift of the leaders, a quick reaction force, and extraction of all parties in combat conditions.
Altogether, the Airmen completed nearly 100 controls, utilizing a mixture of live ordnance.
The Czech FACs possess the same combat skill set as the TACPs, so the training provided an opportunity to exchange tactics and procedures, as well as other training experiences.
Chief Warrant Officer Pavel, a FAC with the Czech air force, said the exchange also builds trust and camaraderie, so if deployed together, they are able to have an established confidence in each other's skills.
Pavel, who recently deployed with the 147th ASOS' commander, said the relationship the two units have built over the years has helped while he was downrange.
According to Kroll, the dry, mountainous Arizona desert provided the perfect backdrop for this type of training.
"Davis Monthan and the Barry Goldwater Range in Gila Bend are really good training environments," he said. "It's wide open…it's a desert environment, it's a good representation of our current fight in Afghanistan, so that helps, and it's a good way to practice our MCOs."
Pavel agreed, saying that there aren't too many places in the Czech Republic that represent the environment and terrain in Southwest Asia, so giving his troops experience in that type of environment was invaluable.
Not only did the exercise allow the Airmen to employ a full mission profile in a joint environment, but it helped prepare them for their Warfighter exercise later this year, in support of the Texas Army National Guard's 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Kroll said.