CAMP SHELBY, Miss. --
Marines from Force Headquarters Group, 4th Marine Division and 4th Marine Aircraft Wing participated in Tactical Air Control Party training during a Close Air Support Exercise along with U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force personnel at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, February 24, 2021.
TACP members are responsible for accurately locating targets for fire missions, providing battle damage assessment, and aid in neutralizing enemies to meet the ground force commander's intent. With such a critical mission, having a TACP with highly skilled Marines is essential.
“TACP is everybody involved in the process of providing clearance for aircrafts to strike targets on the ground near a friendly ground unit,” said Capt. Zack Devlin-Foltz, a JTAC with 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. “The JTACs are the people with the authority to actually give that clearance; they operate within a TACP which has multiple supporting Marines and Sailors to help them do their job.”
Close Air Support Exercises also allow Marines to work with members of a TACP to practice close air support drills with pilots, while working to earn the qualifications needed to become a JTAC instructor or evaluator.
“In the Marine Corps Reserves, maintaining proficiency is always the priority. When it comes to rifle quals or conducting air support, it is always important to maintain competence and stay current in our jobs.” Sgt. Melvin Ortega, a JFO with 4th ANGLICO
“At this exercise, we are evaluating and instructing various JTACs as well as JFOs and prepping for real life scenarios,” said Sgt. Melvin Ortega, a JFO with 4th ANGLICO. “During this exercise we are controlling live aircraft, rotary wing and fixed-wing, along with live ordnance to help make sure we are proficient in our tasks.”
Tactical Air Control Party training is an opportunity for JTAC certified and Joint Fire Observer certified service members to receive updated training needed to maintain the qualifications they already possess, which is critical for Reserve Marines.
“In the Marine Corps Reserves, maintaining proficiency is always the priority,” said Ortega. “When it comes to rifle quals or conducting air support, it is always important to maintain competence and stay current in our jobs.”
This CASEX also allows Marines to increase their proficiency working with other services, which better prepares them for real world operations.
“We’re always in a joint environment,” said Devlin-Foltz. “We end up using Air Force and Navy air support when we're working so that is how we need to train.”
Reserve Marines participating in the CASEX is another example of Marine Forces Reserve adapting to the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health and safety precautions are enforced, but the TACP training process remains the same.
“There is definitely more social distancing,” said Ortega. “As long as we are outside and maintain distance between each other, the training remains the same. The main goal is always safety not only out in the training field but also amongst ourselves.”