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TACP share experiences with 124th Fighter Wing Airmen

Two  A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, assigned to the 190th Fighter Squadron, fly over Airmen with the 124th Fighter Wing, Idaho Air National Guard, at the Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Oct. 5, 2019. The range provides a designated area for pilots, Tactical Air Control Party Airmen and other mission-essential groups to run training missions. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Walker)

Two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, assigned to the 190th Fighter Squadron, fly over Airmen with the 124th Fighter Wing, Idaho Air National Guard, at the Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Oct. 5, 2019. The range provides a designated area for pilots, Tactical Air Control Party Airmen and other mission-essential groups to run training missions. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Walker)

GOWEN FIELD, Idaho -- Idaho Air National Guard Airmen from the 124th Maintenance Squadron and 124th Medical Group joined Tactical Air Control Party Airmen from the 124th Air Support Operations Squadron for a show of force at the Saylor Creek Bombing Range Oct. 5.

The primary role of TACP Airmen from the 124th ASOS is to provide close air support by directing combat strike aircraft against enemy targets, but that role continues to expand.

"As a TACP, we focus on deconflicting airspace and preventing fratricide and collateral damage," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Wells, a joint terminal attack controller in the 124th ASOS. "Being a JTAC isn't just about the bomb hitting the ground or the gun going off; there are a lot of minor steps and critical thinking that occurs for every process we encounter."

Planning for a training mission begins more than three hours before time on target. TACP Airmen conduct briefings, perform safety checks and develop missions that ensure opportunities to practice skills used in real-world scenarios.

"This job is 90 percent planning," said Wells. "Our newest Airmen will spend days focused solely on planning missions, problem-solving and figuring out how to make sure communication between ground force commanders, team leaders and comrades are on point, so everyone knows their role and stays safe."

Time is precious for traditional guard members and planning for a mission must be accomplished in tandem with additional duties.

"A JTAC is a JTAC regardless of whether you're in the National Guard or on active duty," said Tech. Sgt. Justin Clark, a JTAC in the 124th ASOS. "We have the same requirements as everyone else and less time to do it. We all have multiple additional duties. Some even have five or six."

Still, he said members of the ASOS want to know "how each piece of the puzzle fits together and build a more rounded understanding of our extended team."

The key, says Clark, is to avoid the tunnel vision that can result from staying in one shop and not venturing out to explore.

"Until we can experience what other squadrons do, we can't make assumptions," said Wells. "We're all one team."

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