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NEWS | March 28, 2011

Texas Guard hosts multinational combat arms exercise

By Air Force Lt. Col. John E. Olsen 147th ASOS Commander

YANKEE RANGE, MCMULLEN COUNTY, Texas - A multinational combat force from the Texas Air National Guard and Czech Republic Air Force descended upon the wild South Texas brush here from March 2 to 6 for a first of its kind combined arms exercise.

Observers from the militaries of Chile and Singapore were in attendance planning their nations' participation in next year's Red Flag Texas exercise.

Texas is partnered with the Czech Republic and with Chile in the 63-nation National Guard State Partnership Program.

Texas Air National Guard members of the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers; Czech Republic Air Force Forward Air Controllers; members of the 149th Fighter Wing and their F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets and Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters from the 2-149th and 1-149th Battalions gathered at the Yankee Range, where the 149th Operations Group/Detachment 1's F-16 bombing range hosted the exercise and provided both the field of battle and the unfortunate opposition force.

Replete with target arrays for F-16 and Apache attack helicopter weapons employment, Yankee Range boasts two new ground force target complexes known as military operations in urban terrain sites.

Holed up within their fortified MOUT site, OPFOR personnel were defeated and eventually captured by a Texas Air National Guard Assault Force of 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and Czech Air Force Forward Air Controllers.

The air assault operation was conducted aboard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. They fired their door-mounted 60 caliber crew served weapons in support of the assault force.

AH-64 Apache attack helicopters escorted, then supported the assault force with simulated 30mm gunfire and Hellfire missile employment.

Predictably, the F-16 fighter jets provided the coup de grâce with live close air support. The fog of war was heightened by smoke from an endless barrage of pyrotechnics and the constant chatter of 5.56 mm small arms fire from both the assault force and OPFOR.

Joint terminal attack controllers are a special breed. No one else in the U.S. military, regardless of rank or service, is authorized to control airpower on the battlefield in close proximity to ground forces. As members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Czechs hold an identical qualification known as forward air controllers.

Both the Czech forward air controllers and their 147th ASOS counterparts have extensive experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To integrate airpower into the Army ground commander's battlefield scheme of maneuver is the unique mission of joint terminal attack controllers and forward air controllers, without which exercise Red Flag Texas '11 could never have been attempted.

Enabled by this battlefield integration capability, the Texas National Guard is now capable of marshalling its Army and Air Guard weapon systems into a single combined arms fighting force as never before.

With the incorporation of Czech Forward Air Controllers, exercise Red Flag Texas '11 was catapulted from a single country joint exercise to a multinational combined arms exercise, a rare event.

Red Flag Texas '12 promises to improve on the success of Red Flag Texas '11 with the incorporation of Texas' newest state partner: Special Forces soldiers from the military of Chile.