The room is kept warm, the volume is turned up and there is a dizzying array of information thrown at a person. The effect, said Filler, who commands the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron’s JTACs, is to recreate as much as the chaos on the battlefield as possible in a controlled environment.
Added Wheeler: “The real reason there are Air Force JTACs is not to deliver an effect upon the enemy but to make sure that we don’t do that to the good guys. Remember everyone looks like an ant from 30,000 feet.”
And that’s an issue on the battlefield where miscommunication or having a plane fly in the path of an incoming artillery round can have disastrous results. The simulators, the two men say, allow their airmen and others to practice their skills so when they are deployed, things go more easily.
On the other side of the room, are the trainers, experienced JTACs, many of whom have received Bronze Stars in the past for their actions in the midst of combat. Many have been deployed three or four times.
Drawing upon what they have seen and lived through, they are training the new generation. With a bank of a half-dozen computer monitors, they can create any scenario they want.
Need a tank? Want to call in artillery? Want to create a situation where unless bombs hit properly on target, everyone dies? All are possible. There is even an option for pilots like Filler to fly the airplane called in for the support mission, adding another human element to the equation.
Filler took the controls and “piloted” an A-10 Thunderbolt II. A device attached to his hat caused the view to change whenever he turned his head. It was almost like real flying, he said.
It’s a long road to become a JTAC. Filler said from start to finish, it takes at least two years and more likely four to finish the program. And simulators like the one at the 182nd allow people to stay proficient without incurring the costs of flying actual planes and dropping actual bombs.<< previous 1 2
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