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Airmen call in close support for Army success

Airmen call in2.jpgWhen envisioning images of military special operations, one typically goes down a list to include Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and Marine Raiders.


Unbeknown-st to many, Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs) are one entity of the Air Forces special operations force. TACPs have the enormous responsibility of calling in air strikes.


Air strikes, also known as close air support (CAS), are paramount on the battlefield in taking out the enemy and saving innocent lives. A TACP has the ability to facilitate both. TACPs embed with the Army on the front line and ensure the right target is engaged at just the right time.


To train and practice their craft, TACPs from the 238th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) assigned to the 186th Air Refueling Wing, Key Field Air National Guard Base in Meridian, Miss., Participated in Southern Strike 17 at the Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center from Oct. 24 to Nov. 4.


Every U.S. military branch convened for the large-scale conventional and special operations exercise hosted by the Mississippi National Guard at the Combat Regional Training Center in Gulfport. It allowed participants to build partnerships and maintain combat readiness for future missions.


A symbiotic relationship exists between the Air Forces TACPs and other ground forces.


“We are liaisons to the Army – thats who we support,” said Tech. Sgt. James Buckley, 238th ASOS TACP/JTAC. “We go out and embed with Army teams using a two man JTAC team, and we control the air strikes for them.”


JTAC, or Joint Terminal Attack Control, is an additional certification that a TACP can attain. It gives a TACP the authority to tell the aircraft to release its ordinance. The Armys ground forces commander is the approving authority for the targeting process.


“Its a checks and balance system, so we cant strike targets that arent valid, and the ground commander cant tell us to strike something thats not valid,” Buckley said. “In the end, the ground forces commander on the Army side owns any ordinance that comes off an aircraft.”


Meeting the physical and academic requirements is no easy feat, which is why this career field needs recruits who are mentally and physically strong and can make it through the TACP pipeline.


“You may fast-rope once just to live on the ground for 30 days,” said Staff Sgt. Sean King, 238th ASOS TACP/JTAC. “The cool stuff is over, and now youre living like the Army, eating with the Army, sleeping less like the Army, marching like them. You have to take it serious.”


“I think that someone who wants to do this job needs to do their homework,” Buckley said. “You have to really have it in your heart that your mission is to ultimately advise the Army, and drop ordinances to save lives on the battlefield. If you dont have the mission in your heart, youre not going to make it through.”


Airmen call in1.jpgTo become a TACP, an Airman must attend basic training, four months of job skills training, survival training, and then return to their unit for mentorship by a JTAC.


“You really are going to be challenged at the school house,” Buckley said. “Theyre going to weed out the weak. Our motto is ‘The strong shall stand; the weak will fall by the wayside.’”


The 238th linked up with the Armys 3rd Special Forces Group during the exercise at Camp Shelby.


“What were doing with them is a multi-echelon exercise where they are training us on their tactics and procedures so that we can integrate better when we do go out with a special operations forces team or another scout team,” Buckley said. “Well know what theyre baseline procedures are so we can integrate seamlessly with them.”


Common character traits indicative of a TACP are self-confidence, determination, and self-reliance.


“A no-quit attitude is a must,” King said.


“You have to be really self-reliant, because youre going be out there on your own,” Buckley said. “We have guys that are Senior Airmen that are JTACs who are talking to full-bird colonels and advising them how to use close-air support. Theres a lot of responsibility because you control multi-million dollar aircraft, dropping 100 thousand dollar bombs. There are lives on the battlefield. There are civilians on the battlefield. So, those are the considerations you have to take in.”


Being in the 238th ASOS is likening to family for the TACPs.


“Its the brotherhood,” Buckley said. “Honestly, I love these guys. I was prior Army, and I felt that brotherhood there. But this is like a whole new level. Theyre like family to me. We train close together, and we rely on each other.”


“Its just great comaraderie with everybody,” King said. “Plus, the job brings in a whole bunch of fun.”


Being a TACP at the 238th ASOS is just as rewarding as it is exciting. At Southern Strike 17, the 238th trained with the National Guards 3rd Special Forces Group from North Carolina, Naval Special Warfare Team, the 122nd ASOS from Louisiana, and the 165th ASOS from Georgia, as well as the Air Forces 11th ASOS from Ft. Hood, Texas.

Revised: 1/9/2017 6:05