HomeNewsArticle Display

18th ASOG JTACs exercise joint efforts at DRAGON STRIKE

A joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) from the 18th Air Support Operations Group surveys the area after calling in an A-10C Thunderbolt II strafe run during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The A-10 pilots performed a strafe run by firing 50-caliber rounds at targets confirmed by the JTAC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

A joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) from the 18th Air Support Operations Group surveys the area after calling in an A-10C Thunderbolt II strafe run during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The A-10 pilots performed a strafe run by firing 50-caliber rounds at targets confirmed by the JTAC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joel Sobrado, 3d Infantry Division fire support NCO, calls out GPS coordinates to 3-27th Field Artillery Regiment soldiers during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. Sobrado and 18th Air Support Operations Group joint terminal attack controllers coordinated with the soldiers on launch locations for M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joel Sobrado, 3d Infantry Division fire support NCO, calls out GPS coordinates to 3-27th Field Artillery Regiment soldiers during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. Sobrado and 18th Air Support Operations Group joint terminal attack controllers coordinated with the soldiers on launch locations for M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cruz Richardson, 18th Air Support Operations Group joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) team leader, evaluates JTAC coordinates for accuracy during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. Richardson evaluated his Airmen on their ability to coordinate airstrike targets efficiently and from a safe distance away from friendlies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cruz Richardson, 18th Air Support Operations Group joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) team leader, evaluates JTAC coordinates for accuracy during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. Richardson evaluated his Airmen on their ability to coordinate airstrike targets efficiently and from a safe distance away from friendlies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Cooch, 18th Air Support Operations Group joint terminal attack controller (JTAC), delivers attack coordinates to B-52 Bomber pilots during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The B-52 and 75th Fighter Squadron’s A-10C Thunderbolt IIs coordinated with the JTACs to deliver close air support for the JTACs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Cooch, 18th Air Support Operations Group joint terminal attack controller (JTAC), delivers attack coordinates to B-52 Bomber pilots during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The B-52 and 75th Fighter Squadron’s A-10C Thunderbolt IIs coordinated with the JTACs to deliver close air support for the JTACs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

Joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) from the 18th Air Support Operations Group prepare equipment before a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launch during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. JTACs aided in A-10 strafe runs and personnel recovery missions in addition to the HIMARS launches for DRAGON STRIKE. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

Joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) from the 18th Air Support Operations Group prepare equipment before a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launch during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. JTACs aided in A-10 strafe runs and personnel recovery missions in addition to the HIMARS launches for DRAGON STRIKE. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

An A-10C Thunderbolt II performs a strafe run after target confirmation from joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The 93d Air Ground Operations Wing JTACs performed close air support coordination during the eight-day exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

An A-10C Thunderbolt II performs a strafe run after target confirmation from joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The 93d Air Ground Operations Wing JTACs performed close air support coordination during the eight-day exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Cooch, left, 18th Air Support Operations Group joint terminal attack controller, speaks with Staff Sgt. Rodshede Roberts, 820th Combat Operations Squadron technologies NCO, and A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. Roberts piloted an RQ-11B Raven, a small unmanned aerial vehicle, during the scenario to help Cooch locate simulated threats and describe their location to the A-10 pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Cooch, left, 18th Air Support Operations Group joint terminal attack controller, speaks with Staff Sgt. Rodshede Roberts, 820th Combat Operations Squadron technologies NCO, and A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 9, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. Roberts piloted an RQ-11B Raven, a small unmanned aerial vehicle, during the scenario to help Cooch locate simulated threats and describe their location to the A-10 pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Evan Hanson, center, 3-27th Field Artillery Regiment 2nd Fires Platoon box operator, and Spc. Chris Baker, 3-27th FAR 2nd Fires Platoon driver, run through a simulated M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launch during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 10, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The 3-27th FAR performed two real-world HIMARS launches during the 8-day exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Evan Hanson, center, 3-27th Field Artillery Regiment 2nd Fires Platoon box operator, and Spc. Chris Baker, 3-27th FAR 2nd Fires Platoon driver, run through a simulated M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launch during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 10, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The 3-27th FAR performed two real-world HIMARS launches during the 8-day exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Dovel, 23d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, coordinates with Capt. Bass Farmer, 75th Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot, on pre-flight checks before takeoff during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 11, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The 23d AMXS provided maintenance for all ten of Moody Air Force Base’s A-10s participating in joint terminal attack controller exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Dovel, 23d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, coordinates with Capt. Bass Farmer, 75th Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot, on pre-flight checks before takeoff during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 11, 2015, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The 23d AMXS provided maintenance for all ten of Moody Air Force Base’s A-10s participating in joint terminal attack controller exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

Pararescuemen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., arrive on-scene for a simulated personnel recovery scenario during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 11, 2015, near Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. HH-60G Pave Hawk pilots coordinated with A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots on the injured personnel’s location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 10 of 13

Pararescuemen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., arrive on-scene for a simulated personnel recovery scenario during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 11, 2015, near Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. HH-60G Pave Hawk pilots coordinated with A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots on the injured personnel’s location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

Pararescuemen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., climb onto a rope before being hoisted into an HH-60G Pave Hawk during a simulated personnel recovery scenario for Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 11, 2015, near Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The scenario focused on communication between pilots and injured personnel and effective aircraft signaling to locate them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 11 of 13

Pararescuemen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., climb onto a rope before being hoisted into an HH-60G Pave Hawk during a simulated personnel recovery scenario for Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 11, 2015, near Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The scenario focused on communication between pilots and injured personnel and effective aircraft signaling to locate them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Hall, 18th Air Support Operations Group Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion specialist, aims a specialized mirror at an A-10C Thunderbolt II during a personnel recovery scenario during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 11, 2015, near Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. Hall utilized the mirror by reflecting the sun to send a distress signal to the aircraft for the rescue exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 12 of 13

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Hall, 18th Air Support Operations Group Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion specialist, aims a specialized mirror at an A-10C Thunderbolt II during a personnel recovery scenario during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 11, 2015, near Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. Hall utilized the mirror by reflecting the sun to send a distress signal to the aircraft for the rescue exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Hall, left, 18th Air Support Operations Group Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion specialist, helps Senior Airman Michael Cruz, 23d Operations Support Squadron targets intelligence specialist, signal an HH-60G Pave Hawk during a personnel recovery scenario for Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 11, 2015, near Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. Hall and Cruz utilized a VS-17 panel, a specialized signaling device, to highlight their location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 13 of 13

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Hall, left, 18th Air Support Operations Group Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion specialist, helps Senior Airman Michael Cruz, 23d Operations Support Squadron targets intelligence specialist, signal an HH-60G Pave Hawk during a personnel recovery scenario for Exercise DRAGON STRIKE June 11, 2015, near Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. Hall and Cruz utilized a VS-17 panel, a specialized signaling device, to highlight their location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

AVON PARK AIR FORCE RANGE, Fla. -- "Cleared hot!" yelled the joint terminal attack controller (JTAC), sweat dripping from his sunburnt face.

Within seconds, he hears the sound of 50-caliber rounds raining down on the target from an A-10C Thunderbolt II. As a billowing cloud of smoke and dust consumes his sight, he runs to his next objective.

This scenario was one of many conducted during Exercise DRAGON STRIKE, a JTAC-oriented exercise June 6-13 in Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla.

JTACs out of the 18th Air Support Operations Group worked in a joint environment alongside Airmen from the 820th Combat Operations Squadron, 23d Fighter and Maintenance Groups, and U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3-27th Field Artillery Regiment.

"DRAGON STRIKE is a means of taking JTACs and putting them in an environment where they're fighting against [simulated] high threats," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ramiro Villalobos, 18th ASOG JTAC. "Our goal was to take these JTACs that generally don't get this level of training and integration ... and give them means to do that."

DRAGON STRIKE consisted of close air support (CAS) and personnel recovery scenarios orchestrated through JTACs and aircraft.

"There have been all kinds of aircraft making an appearance," said Master Sgt. John Dolbee, 18th ASOG surveillance liaison and Exercise DRAGON STRIKE planner. "We have 10 [A-10s] from Moody here, a B-52 [Bomber] and F-16 [Flying Falcons] flying overhead, opposed to only a few at last year's [DRAGON STRIKE]. We gained a lot of assets this year, which gave [the JTACs] scenarios they aren't typically trained for."

For each CAS mission, the A-10 pilots and JTACS discussed mission planning before and after in-person, something usually not feasible in real-world missions.

"When we go out to these types of exercises, the pilots are from bases a few hours away, so our interaction afterwards is usually a phone conversation," said Villalobos. "It's a great opportunity to capture lessons learned in a formal setting and identify areas needing improvement.

"Without establishing a relationship to the pilots, the JTAC is just a guy on the ground," he added. "But if they do a pre-brief and a brief afterwards face-to-face, that relationship will make communication run a lot smoother, more like a CAS team."

The JTACs coordinate with CAS pilots often, but in a deployed environment, they may need surface-to-surface fire provided by the Army.

"Our goal with bringing HIMARS into the mix is to introduce something to a JTAC that they usually don't see or use," said Villalobos. "They were able to train on something [different] for a high-threat environment."

The 3-27th FAR 2nd Fires Platoon out of Fort Bragg, NC, gained experience by providing HIMARS support with JTAC coordination during DRAGON STRIKE.

"[The HIMARS] definitely provides a service that isn't always accomplished by aircraft," said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Blaine Bradburn, 3-27th FAR 2nd Fires Platoon leader. "We have the capabilities of setting off a rocket, packing up and flying off in a C-130 within 10 minutes. It gives the [JTACs] a lot more options on taking out threats."

According to Dolbee, ordering a strafe run or a HIMARS launch requires extensive surveillance and reconnaissance, which is what the 820th COS's RQ-11B Raven program, a small unmanned aerial system (SUAS), provided to JTACs during the exercise.

"They used the SUAS's to identify future targets the JTACs didn't know of at the time," said Villalobos. "When the A-10s are striking at target number 3, the Raven's out there looking for target number 4. They used them in a very effective means in taking out and finding new targets."

Support roles like the Raven program are sometimes overlooked, but according to Dolbee, Airmen from the 18th Weather Squadron were crucial in planning their exercises.

In addition to the weather Airmen, the 23d MXG also supported DRAGON STRIKE for the entirety of the exercise by keeping the A-10s ready to fly.

"We hold an important responsibility of maintaining our aircraft, but [DRAGON STRIKE] was a joint exercise requiring everyone to do their best," said Senior Airman Jeffrey Veazey, 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit A-10 avionics.

According to Dolbee, each Airman and Soldier played a pivotal role in this exercise, whether in the hanger ready to fix an engine or in the field calling airstrikes.

"This has been one of the best exercises I've been to," said Staff Sgt. Cruz Richardson, 15th Air Support Operations Squadron JTAC team leader. "We were able to coordinate face-to-face, get to know one another and work with assets we've never worked with. Overall, [DRAGON STRIKE] was a success."