74th FS, 7th ASOS join forces as CAS team

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 7th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Bliss, Texas, traveled more than 1,500 miles to train with A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots from the 74th Fighter Squadron as a close air support team here, June 8-19.

The 74th FS and the 7th ASOS aligned as a sister-squadron CAS team to maximize their training opportunities, improve their efficiency, and ultimately save lives.

"To prevent meeting a (tactical control air control party) for a week and then never seeing them again; we decided to establish this habitual relationship," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col Ryan "Frag" Haden, 74th FS commander.  "[Now] I have an ASOS that will bend over backwards to help me out when I need it ... and in the same token we will do the same thing for them."

The sister squadron partnership models the Battalion Air Liaison Officer Program that was once a built-in program that allotted CAS flying units and TACPs to train together regularly.

"The sister squadron idea came about last fall and it's an agreement between the (two squadron commanders)," said Capt. Kyle Spain, 7th ASOS joint terminal attack controller. "They got together and said 'the pilots at the 74th have a lot to learn from another member of the CAS team; and vice versa, the JTACs have a lot to learn from the pilots.' [They decided] to formalize and develop these two relationships and that's where the sister squadron memorandum of understanding (MOU) came about."

Since the MOU was signed earlier this year, the 74th FS and the 7th ASOS have taken full advantage of the opportunity to train together during this training and exercises like IRON STRIKE and HUSTLER THUNDER.

"Normally the 74th Fighter Squadron brings in JTAC teams to work with them on a regular weekly basis but this training in particular we did completely different," said Spain. "We came up the week prior to our CAS week and sat through three days of academics. It [included] CAS team academics geared at fighter and JTAC interaction and how to improve our CAS team."

While at Moody, the TACPs utilized the A-10 simulator that depicted the pilot's views in a deployed environment during a close air support mission. They supplemented this training with briefs, debriefs, academics lessons and controls training both live and dry.

"A lot of times downrange we don't have the luxury of being able to have a face-to-face brief but we can do that here," said Capt. Sean Griffin, 74th FS A-10 pilot. "That provides us the ability to really understand what they expect [from us] on the battle space and what we're expecting [from them]. Since our missions (capabilities) are so closely aligned, it's really good to be able to [train with them] so we can execute our mission more effectively."

Their alliance extends beyond the realm of a typical fighter squadron and ASOS. The mutual understanding of each other's capabilities and the comradery and foundation of trust the two squadrons have formed may be beneficial to them in more ways than one.

"The guy that you're working next to or that you fly with on a daily basis, that's the guy you're going to go to war with," said Haden. "You need to know him really well; better than a close friend, you've got to be on that next level. When they have a question, or they're deployed, somebody from the ASOS can pick up the phone and their established relationship leads them right back here. They don't have to guess or look around for the answer because they've got it."

The relationship bonds formed will assist in helping this sister squadron partnership last and endure an ever-changing Air Force.

"It's priceless and I'm not aware of another relationship in the Air Force between the JTACs and the fighter community like this," said Spain. "It has really taught us things both ways that you just can't put a value on because at the end of the day that value could be human lives; our brothers and sisters in arms. By knowing each other's mutual capabilities it facilitates safer CAS and at the end of the day it will save lives downrange."