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U.S. Marines, Army Special Forces, and Navy SEALs Conduct CAS
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck
March 7, 2022

U.S. Marines with III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Information Group (MIG), soldiers with U.S. Army 1st Special Forces Group, and U.S. Navy SEALs conducted close air support (CAS) training at MCAS Iwakuni during February 2022. The training was conducted to enhance joint operability across the separate military branches to respond to possible threats in the Indo-Pacific.

U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua Wilson, front, a joint terminal attack controller instructor with 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and U.S. Army Special Forces operators with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), conduct simulated close air support (CAS) using handheld Link 16 radios at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, Feb. 15, 2022. The training focused on the joint force’s ability to integrate and refine tactics of CAS, which requires detailed planning and careful coordination between pilots and forces on the ground. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)
U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua Wilson, front, a joint terminal attack controller instructor with 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and U.S. Army Special Forces operators with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), conduct simulated close air support (CAS) using handheld Link 16 radios at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, Feb. 15, 2022. The training focused on the joint force’s ability to integrate and refine tactics of CAS, which requires detailed planning and careful coordination between pilots and forces on the ground. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)

CAS refers to any aviation-delivered strikes in close proximity to friendly forces that requires careful coordination between pilots and the joint tactical air controllers (JTACs) on the ground. JTACs play a critical role in offensive air operations, acting as the eyes and ears for pilots in hostile environments to direct the actions of combat aircraft. Because JTACs need to make time-sensitive decisions in high-pressure situations, the importance of CAS training is vital.

“Employing CAS in medium to high threat environments to achieve effects on joint integrated prioritized target lists is extremely complex and requires extensive coordination to execute successfully,” according to an Army Special Forces JTAC operator with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group.

This evolution provided a realistic and dynamic training environment, with constantly changing variables, including vehicles traveling at low and high speeds, moving personnel and various types of structures. Each branch was evaluated and given feedback to help lead to better performance of future CAS operations.

“Having the ability to practice CAS on real terrain and learning the latest tactics in order to confirm joint doctrine is the best training opportunity a JTAC can get,” said a Naval Special Warfare operator who participated in the training.

During the event, each branch alternated guiding several Navy F/18 aircraft with Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102 to provide simulated CAS to specified targets across the base.

U.S. Marine Cpl. Jeremey Samuel, a fire support Marine with 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and U.S. Army Special Forces JTAC operator with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), use a handheld Link 16 radio to conduct simulated close air support (CAS) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, Feb. 15, 2022. The training focused on the joint force’s ability to integrate and refine tactics of CAS, which requires detailed planning and careful coordination between pilots and forces on the ground. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)
U.S. Marine Cpl. Jeremey Samuel, a fire support Marine with 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and U.S. Army Special Forces JTAC operator with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), use a handheld Link 16 radio to conduct simulated close air support (CAS) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, Feb. 15, 2022. The training focused on the joint force’s ability to integrate and refine tactics of CAS, which requires detailed planning and careful coordination between pilots and forces on the ground. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)

The 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), III MIG, provided the Marine element for this exercise. 5th ANGLICO’s mission is to provide the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commander a liaison capability and to plan, coordinate, employ, and conduct terminal control of fires in support of joint, allied, and coalition forces. This was a unique opportunity for the Marines as the scenarios were complex in nature and involved other services.

Marine Capt. Jacob Rhine, a team lead with 5th ANGLICO, stated that his unit is always looking for opportunities to train with joint and allied forces. He expressed how important it is to obtain joint training experience, especially in today’s world, where a free and open Indo-Pacific remains a top priority.

“We gain not only a proficiency for practicing close air support in an urban environment,” said Rhine. “But we also gain experience training with our joint partners and are able to take what they know and the way that they train and try to implement it to make us better.”

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