FORT SMITH, AR – More than 50 Airmen from Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve wings participated in a five-day close air support training event at two Arkansas training areas, July 10-14, 2017.
Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) specialists from the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron coordinated the event known as Sooner Strike. The event allowed Airmen to conduct close air support training and share techniques while also working across several airframes common to TACPs.
“The purpose of this exercise is to work hand-in-hand with other units while practicing close air support and integrating with them to hone both the skills of the pilots and the TACPs doing the ground duties,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Vaughn, 146th ASOS TACP and exercise planner.
MC-12Ws from the 137th Special Operations Wing, Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma City; F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 138th Fighter Wing in Tulsa Oklahoma; A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 442nd Fighter Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri; and KC-135 Stratotankers from the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma City, participated in the five-day event.
“It is not uncommon for all of those aircraft to be working in the same operating area at any given time,” said Vaughn. “We call this controlling the ‘stack.’ We deconflict the multiple aircraft and hold them at different altitudes in the airspace. That is also a responsibility we can pass to the pilots, so we practice doing that too.”
In the air, pilots train on sensor operator duties including pulling grids, following targets and working with TACPs while having other aircraft overhead. On the ground, TACPs used the event to accomplish mission qualification training, live controls and continuation training.
“This training went really well,” said Master Sgt. Larry Mansell, 146th ASOS TACP. “Typically we go all over the country and do this, but we haven’t worked with the 125th Fighter Squadron (under the 138 FW) yet. I’ve seen improvement from our guys. This training is a must-have.”
KC-135s from the 507th were also on hand to refuel the F-16s during the event.
“This is a good training for pilots and TACPs to all to work together,” said Vaughn.
“This training scenario simulates what they are going to see when they deploy. They will deploy into a counterinsurgency type of environment. We focus our training on what we will see soon.”
This was the first training event of its kind between the 146th ASOS and the wings, but Mansell and Vaughn hope to make a regular occurrence.
“We want to reestablish this relationship to where we work together regularly,” said Vaughn. “In the future, we would like to train with them every month. We play their ground party because they need us to practice close air support and we need them to practice our capabilities.”