images of military special operations, one typically goes down a list to
include Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and Marine Raiders.
many, Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs) are one entity of the Air Force’s
special operations force. TACPs have the enormous responsibility of calling in
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.
relationship exists between the Air Force’s TACPs and other
“We are liaisons to
the Army – that’s
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.
ground forces commander is the approving authority for the targeting process.
a checks and balance system, so we can’t strike targets
valid, and the ground commander can’t tell us to strike
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
“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 you’re
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 don’t
have the mission in your heart, you’re not going to make
To 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. “They’re
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 Army’s
3rd Special Forces Group during the exercise at Camp Shelby.
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. “We’ll
know what they’re
baseline procedures are so we can integrate seamlessly with them.”
traits indicative of a TACP are self-confidence, determination, and
“A no-quit attitude
is a must,” King said.
“You have to be
really self-reliant, because you’re 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. There’s 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.
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. They’re
like family to me. We train close together, and we rely on each other.”
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 Guard’s 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 Force’s 11th ASOS from Ft.