Lightning from sky in Gila Bend: ANGLICO conducts close air support training

10 Sep 2015 | Cpl. Demetrius Morgan The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

The Marine Corps wins our nation’s battles using many different war fighting techniques. One of the most effective ways is through the use of overwhelming fire superiority from combined ground, air and naval assets. A designated group of Marines specializes in the coordination of joint and combined fire support interoperability during missions when the Marine Corps works with other services and nations. They are the Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.

Situated on a rigid hilltop at Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, Arizona, a team of Joint Terminal Attack Controllers with Support Assault Arms Liaison Team D, 1st Brigade Platoon, 1st ANGLICO, I Marine Expeditionary Force, conducted an integrated close air support training evolution with supporting Air Force units, Aug. 23-28, 2015. 

“The purpose of the exercise is two-fold,” said Gunnery Sgt. Paul Smith, the fires chief and weapons and tactics instructor with 1st Brigade Platoon. “Our primary focus is to run some of these officers through what we call a designation phase. Once they have completed the necessary objectives they can be designated by the unit commander to be JTACs. 

"Since theses Marines are required to work alongside the other services, it is beneficial when they are able to conduct joint training. It gives them the opportunity to train with different aircraft and improve their ability to employ them effectively,” said Smith. 

JTACs must analyze the terrain and friendly and enemy situations. Then, through precise communication, employ aircraft to engage ground targets. They take into consideration the environment around the target, the aircraft’s distance to the target and its capabilities and its weapons systems.

Marines were put in realistic scenarios that forced them to take multiple factors into consideration simultaneously while supporting a fire mission, making for challenging and complex evolutions during the training.

“We try to make this training as realistic as possible for these guys,” Smith said. “We put them under as much stress as possible by making the scenarios as difficult as possible while not making it impossible.” 

Marines also coordinated fires at night with little to no visibility and had to rely on artificial illumination to see their targets. 

“At night we have to be way more precise with our [communications] and our fires coordination,” said Sgt. Andrew Dimauro, the communications chief for Support Assault Arms Liaison Team D. “We use [night vision goggles] and a lot of times we call for illumination to light up our targets so that we can see the target and the aircraft can [too].” 

JTACs use their capabilities to assist and create a well-integrated fighting force, something that will always be vital to the success of military operations. 

Through the scorching days and dark nights, Marines continuously coordinated and executed close air support missions that required quick and methodical courses of action while working alongside the U.S. Air Force. Marines with 1st ANGLICO will continue to cultivate their combat abilities in future training evolutions.