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Honing their craft: 13th ASOS supports Green Flag- West

FORT CARSON, Colo. – Members of the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron based at Fort Carson, Colorado, prepare communication equipment on a Stryker armored combat vehicle before an exercise in December 2015. Charlie Flight from 13th ASOS, participated in exercise Green Flag – West 16-09 at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, in support of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team from Fort Carson. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tiffany Denault)

FORT CARSON, Colo. – Members of the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron based at Fort Carson, Colorado, prepare communication equipment on a Stryker armored combat vehicle before an exercise in December 2015. Charlie Flight from 13th ASOS, participated in exercise Green Flag – West 16-09 at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, in support of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team from Fort Carson. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tiffany Denault)

FORT CARSON, Colo. -- About 30 members of the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron Charlie Flight participated in the Green Flag – West 16-09 exercise Aug. 22- Sept. 16, supporting exercises at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

Green Flag is a close air support and joint training exercise providing realistic battle scenarios integrating air and land components. Charlie Flight took part along with 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team from Fort Carson, Colorado, the group they are assigned to support.

The exercise involved about 5,000 Soldiers including the NTC resident opposing force, 2,000 vehicles including armored equipment, and eight aircraft a day. The aircraft component for the exercise was comprised of U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and F-16 Falcons from the United Arab Emirates, carrying out both live and dry fire missions.

“Before a major deployment you go to the NTC,” said Capt. William West, Charlie Flight commander. “We are the Regionally Aligned Force for Operation Atlantic Resolve.”

The 3rd ABCT is deploying to Europe in 2017 as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a multinational NATO training and security activity. In preparation for the deployment, the team was practicing maneuvers at the NTC. The 13th ASOS has supported exercises at the NTC three times in the past year, West said.

The role of the 13th ASOS Tactical Air Control Party and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers is to meet the ground commander’s intent by putting bombs on targets, said Master Sgt. Brian Horvath, chief of Charlie Flight.

“We advise the ground commander on incorporating air power into the ground scheme of the maneuver at decisive points in the battle,” Horvath said.

Exercises like Green Flag help his team build working relationships with the people they will go into battle with, West said. During this go-around the training was not focused on fighting insurgents, but rather on combating armored components of a near peer nation such as Russia or China. It was a major combat operation scenario consisting of a large force-on-force battle with a comparable adversary.

“We are training to get proficient at fighting major combat operations,” said Horvath. “Because we recognize the threat is out there.”

West said training for this type of major combat operation requires a different approach and a specific method of employing resources. With live aircraft, live artillery and the massive number of combat vehicles in play, Charlie Flight had their work cut out for them.

When training to fight insurgents, Horvath said the battle plans may call for dropping bombs on many opposing soldiers, but in an operation against a large opposing armored force, tactics may be more strategic including strikes against communications systems and fuel dumps, for example.

“Our approach in employing air power is decisive and precise, because we have limited time with the aircraft and resources,” Horvath said.

The 13th ASOS teams continually ask themselves how they can affect the battle most, making the largest favorable impact with available resources, Horvath said.

After participating in various scenarios of several main battles over the two weeks of Green Flag, there were a few things to work on, Horvath said. The main takeaways were a need to change the mindset and techniques employed entering a different type of battle. When the group returned to Fort Carson on Sept. 11, West was satisfied with the results of the exercise.

Whether the opponent is a band of insurgents or a large armored unit, because of frequent training like Green Flag exercises and regular close air support training events in the field, the 13th ASOS will be sure to bring to the fight precise air support for land forces.

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