The Skys the limit during coalition CAS Training

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Marina Pevey
332d Air Expeditionary Group PAO

Staff Sgt. Ed Shulman uses a laser acquisition marker to designate a target. UDAIRI RANGE, KUWAIT - Members from the U.S. Army Special Forces along with Kuwaiti and Coalition forces joined the Air Force's 332d Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron for United Orbit, a close air support exercise, held Aug. 9.

The purpose of the exercise was to hone, train, test and demonstrate close air support and command and control capabilities in the Kuwaiti Theater.

Tech Sgt. Gary Jones, SF ETAC NCOIC, 3rd Special Forces Group, calls in close air support on a portable satellite system. AF Air Support Operations Squadrons (ASOS) work in direct support of the Army maneuver commanders, explained Tech Sgt. Kevin Billman, 332d EASOS NCOIC.

Air Force Enlisted Terminal Attack Controllers (ETACs) deploy forward with Army ground units. If the land forces encounter hostilities that require air support to destroy an enemy target, they usually call upon the Air Force to provide air strikes.

Simply put, it is the ETACs job to guide aircraft to the appropriate ground target.

Maj. Bill Bestic (foreground), New Zealand Special Air Service, prepares target coordinates. Here, the 332d EASOS provides close air support training to the Army's 3rd and 5th Special Forces Group, and runs the Air Support Operations Center (ASOC) at Camp Doha, Kuwait in support of the Coalition Joint Task Force-Kuwait (FWD).

Maj. Larry Hannon, 332d EASOS commander, says, "The exercise allowed our ground controllers and the ASOC to practice their command and control nodes and skills controlling a large quantity of aircraft in a small amount of airspace."

A Navy SH-60 helicopter crew testing its gunnery skills. Hannon, who is also the ASOC director, explains how the process works. The Army identifies the hostile targets, and then sends the ASOC an immediate air support request. The ASOC acts as a liaison between the Army corps commander and the Air Force.

"My job is to ensure that the right air power supports the right area," Hannon says. "I advise the commander on aircraft availability, aircraft capabilities and ensure the aircraft is suitable for the target."

Maj. Don Bolduc, SF ground commander, emphasizes the importance of this type of exercise to ensure connectivity between Air, Naval, and ground forces.

"During the CASEX, we demonstrated the outstanding coalition partnership between U.S. and Kuwaiti Forces regarding the defense of Kuwait,'' Bolduc says.

The final approving authority for all close air support missions is the corps commander. Once the air support is approved, the ASOC sends the fighters to the appropriate ground controller. The ground controller passes vital information to the fighters, such as target location, friendly positions and provides final clearance for weapon delivery.

ETACs, aligned with SF units, train their personnel on all aspects of close air support missions and terminal guidance operations.

"Here in Kuwait, SF teams are attached to the Kuwaiti Land Forces to provide assistance, training and execute close air support missions," says Tech. Sgt. Gary Jones, SF ETAC NCOIC, 3rd Special Forces Group.

One of the SF members on hand was Army Capt. John Porambo, 5th SFG detachment commander. He explains the importance of the exercise and the training it provided his soldiers.

"We are the forward most forces with the Kuwaitis. This training enhanced our capability to communicate and execute close air support missions," he says.

The CASEX provided an excellent training opportunity, and ensures the coalition's ability to defend Kuwait.