VILSECK, Germany — U.S. Air Force tactical air control party (TACP) members kicked off the first week of a 45-day training plan April 7 at U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr.
The training is designed to sharpen their skills for potential upcoming deployments to Afghanistan.
The primary duty of the TACP teams have long been to provide close air support to their assigned army units, directing combat aircraft as they put bombs on enemy targets. However, with an increase in forces and the overall operational tempo in Afghanistan, the demand for TACPs within sister service units has also increased.
This heightened demand has created the need for a variety of additional skill sets and duties, which this one-and-half month training plan, put on by the 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS), a geographically separated unit under the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing, aims to satisfy.
"Being a TACP is more than just calling in air strikes, we have to know a variety of combat skill sets," said Air Force Lt. Col. Jill Long, 2nd ASOS commander. "These skills include medical first response, contingency aeromedical evacuation, tactical vehicle operations and egress procedures, various weapon qualifications, small unit maneuvering tactics, ground and satellite radio operations. Basically everything the Army unit we're supporting is doing, we need to be familiar with as well. The implementation of these skills is the goal of the next 45 days of training, getting our guys spun-up for their upcoming Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) deployments."
The focus of the pre-deployment training is enforcing the variety of skills necessary in a joint and coalition environment, such as Afghanistan.
"Being part of an ASOS is about as 'joint' as it gets'," said Long. "Already this year, we've engaged in missions with each of our sister services and nine different NATO countries as well. It's important we're as prepared as we can be to be an asset in these joint settings."
The instruction was facilitated by various subject matter experts within the 2nd ASOS, neighboring squadrons like the 4th ASOS in Mannheim, as well as Army instructors like Sgt. Ronnie Rivas, a flight medic with Charlie Company 1/214 Aviation Regiment.
"We trained the Airmen on standard aeromedical evacuation procedures, which is something these guys will possibly encounter downrange," Rivas said. "It's important for the guys on the ground to know how to stabilize and load patients and what to expect while waiting for air transport. Knowing these skills speeds up the process of transporting patients and can save lives."
In addition to Medical Evacuation, service members will also receive training such as combat life saver, small arms and artillery weapons familiarization, tactical vehicle operations, radio communications as well as a reinforcement of their primary close air support skills over the next 45 days.
At the close of their kick-off week, the 40 plus airmen participating seemed to be off to a good start as they were challenged by their leadership.
"This training is rigorous and it's a whole plethora that requires both physical and mental agility," Long said . "I'm confident they'll have what it takes to accomplish the mission."
Along with the challenge, they were praised by their counterparts.
"This is the first time I've had the experience of working directing with the Air Force, and they've made it a pleasant experience," Rivas said. "The guys are focused, everybody's on the same page, and I'm glad we're all on the same side."