MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE --
Since 1953, the area known as the Orchard Combat Training Center has been a premier joint combined arms training site. At an area roughly 8 miles south of Boise, the Idaho National Guard, Army Reservists and now the 366th Fighter Wing are able to train on 53,000 acres of non-dudded (non-explosive) impact area and approximately 3,300 acres of dudded impact area.
“April 17th was the second time that the OCTC has authorized the release of high explosive bombs delivered from aircraft into our Artillery Impact Area,” said James Anderson, Range Facility Management Support System coordinator. “The week prior, Friday, April 10th, was the first time and April 17th’s training was a continuation of that exercise.”
Two F-15E Strike Eagles from the 391st Fighter Squadron dropped six Mark 82 bombs and two GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs into the dudded impact area.
“I am the scheduling coordinator for units requesting to train here,” Anderson said. “I worked with members of the 391st FS to develop safe release parameters for the ordnance delivered by the F-15Es and facilitated coordination between Range Control, the 391st FS and Air National Guard Joint Terminal Attack Controllers of the 124th Air Support Operations Squadron.”
The JTAC team was on site to talk to the pilots of the two F-15Es and communicate via radio where to drop their bombs.
“This training exercise was basically a “proof of concept” for future Army training units, our sister services and allies that may want to conduct live or inert drops into our artillery impact area in support of their training during Combined Arms Live Fire Exercises,” Anderson said.
Normally, Mountain Home AFB drops live munitions at the Utah Test and Training Range but in order to enhance total force partnerships and joint training capabilities, the Idaho Army National Guard reached out.
“For future combat missions, everything is about joint fires,” said Idaho Army National Guard Lt. Col. Dennis Stitt, OCTC director. “So combining the ground combat forces with air combat capability is extremely important.”
The combined training gives the Army a chance to practice communication capabilities between JTACs and pilots.
“We are capable of allowing ground units to integrate close air support from fixed wing platforms with their maneuver training,” Anderson said. “When that CAS capability is combined with firing from the ground units, they will already be proficient in the coordination of fires if and when they deploy forward.”
The Army leans on the Air Force for close air support and in order to have comfortable communication and trust, practice is necessary.
“It’s a win-win for the air crews delivering ordnance in support of the unit on the ground,” Anderson said. They can gain valuable experience without having to travel to other major commands to accomplish the same level of training.”
Joint force training is a valuable opportunity for all involved to maintain mission proficiency and lethality.