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JTACs improve warfighting capabilities at Saber Strike 18

Italian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers watch an A-10 Thunderbolt II fly over Adazi, Latvia, June 7, 2018. Partner nations’ controllers worked with U.S. pilots to call in air support on mock targets during Saber Strike 18. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

Italian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers watch an A-10 Thunderbolt II fly over Adazi, Latvia, June 7, 2018. Partner nations’ controllers worked with U.S. pilots to call in air support on mock targets during Saber Strike 18. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

An A-10 Thunderbolt II flies past a plume of smoke during Saber Strike 18 at a field in Adazi, Latvia on June 5, 2018. A-10s deploy from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, worked with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers during the exercise to improve synergy between the air and land components of warfighting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

An A-10 Thunderbolt II flies past a plume of smoke during Saber Strike 18 at a field in Adazi, Latvia on June 5, 2018. A-10s deploy from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, worked with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers during the exercise to improve synergy between the air and land components of warfighting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

A Norwegian Joint Terminal Attack Controller discusses operations with U.S. Forces during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018. Nineteen nations attended and participated in the exercise to build on each nations capabilities and improve partnership capacity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

A Norwegian Joint Terminal Attack Controller discusses operations with U.S. Forces during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018. Nineteen nations attended and participated in the exercise to build on each nations capabilities and improve partnership capacity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

An A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over a field in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018.  A-10s were deployed to Europe from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, to support exercise Saber Strike 18. While flying, A-10 pilots worked on close air support tactics and demonstrated show-of-force maneuvers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

An A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over a field in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018. A-10s were deployed to Europe from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, to support exercise Saber Strike 18. While flying, A-10 pilots worked on close air support tactics and demonstrated show-of-force maneuvers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Louis Awua, 122nd Air Support Operations Squadron Joint Terminal Attack Controller instructor, explains procedures for calling in close air support to OF-1 Ricardo Cobos, Spanish Forces JTAC, during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018. During Saber Strike 18, approximately 18,000 members from 19 countries worked together to build on interoperability to improve air, land, and sea capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Louis Awua, 122nd Air Support Operations Squadron Joint Terminal Attack Controller instructor, explains procedures for calling in close air support to OF-1 Ricardo Cobos, Spanish Forces JTAC, during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018. During Saber Strike 18, approximately 18,000 members from 19 countries worked together to build on interoperability to improve air, land, and sea capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the Spanish Forces call in close air support during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018. Countries participating in Saber Strike had the opportunity to practice combining the air and land components of warfighting to strengthen partnership capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the Spanish Forces call in close air support during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018. Countries participating in Saber Strike had the opportunity to practice combining the air and land components of warfighting to strengthen partnership capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Perry Jackson, right, 122nd Air Support Operations Squadron superintendent, takes notes as an observer controller in Adazi, Latvia on June 7, 2018. Observer controllers help control scenarios for other controllers to work through during exercises and assist the Range Control Officer with safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Perry Jackson, right, 122nd Air Support Operations Squadron superintendent, takes notes as an observer controller in Adazi, Latvia on June 7, 2018. Observer controllers help control scenarios for other controllers to work through during exercises and assist the Range Control Officer with safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

A U.S. Air Force Airman watches an A-10 Thunderbolt II perform close air support maneuvers during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018.  Saber Strike 18 is a U.S. Army Europe led exercise aiming to build stronger operational partnerships between the U.S. and 19 of its allies, to include regional partners: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

A U.S. Air Force Airman watches an A-10 Thunderbolt II perform close air support maneuvers during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018. Saber Strike 18 is a U.S. Army Europe led exercise aiming to build stronger operational partnerships between the U.S. and 19 of its allies, to include regional partners: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

Italian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers call in close air support during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018. Countries participating in Saber Strike had the opportunity to practice combining the air and land components of warfighting to strengthen partnership capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

Italian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers call in close air support during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia, June 5, 2018. Countries participating in Saber Strike had the opportunity to practice combining the air and land components of warfighting to strengthen partnership capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

A NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group patch rests on the shoulder of a member of a NATO ally in Adazi, Latvia on June 5, 2018. Allies from NATO and regional partners from the Baltics took part in Saber Strike 18 to hone on skills that help to maintain security in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)
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A NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group patch rests on the shoulder of a member of a NATO ally in Adazi, Latvia on June 5, 2018. Allies from NATO and regional partners from the Baltics took part in Saber Strike 18 to hone on skills that help to maintain security in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

Latvian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers watch an A-10 Thunderbolt II provide close air support during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia on June 7, 2018. Nineteen nations attended and participated in the exercise to build on each nation’s capabilities and improve partnership capacity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)
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Latvian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers watch an A-10 Thunderbolt II provide close air support during Saber Strike 18 in Adazi, Latvia on June 7, 2018. Nineteen nations attended and participated in the exercise to build on each nation’s capabilities and improve partnership capacity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike)

ADAZI, Latvia– -- While aircraft are in the sky waiting for a call, a small group of Airmen on the ground move to a vantage point and survey the battlefield. Their job is to identify targets and their locations providing pilots the means to support the friendlies on the ground.

These Airmen are Joint Terminal Attack Controllers.

“One of the key aspects for these guys is precision” said Senior Master Sgt. Perry Jackson, 122nd Air Support Operations Squadron observer controller. “Precision is very important, because they provide assistance to friendly forces.”

During Saber Strike 18, JTACs from the U.S., Latvia, Estonia, Norway, Italy, Spain and other partnered nations worked together to learn new skills, perspectives, and to strengthen communication and relations between each other.

“(Saber Strike) is a partnership environment where we can train with foreign JTACs who may have learned something different from some other training course,” said Master Sgt. Chuck Barth, Grayling Air Gunnery Range JTAC Instructor. “Not only do they get good training, but we also get good training to improve our skillset.”

The JTAC skillset is heavily dependent on communication, task management, and integration due to the amount of information the controllers receive and transmit.

“Another thing that stands out about JTACs, relates to Gen. Goldfein’s outlook on the importance of data,” said Maj. J.R. Gibbens, 122nd ASOS air liaison officer. “These guys are the data hub on the battlefield. More information needs to be passed, and they are controlling that information and integrating it with our forces.”

According to Barth, Saber Strike began as a JTAC centric platform which brought in Aircraft to Latvia in support of the JTAC program that was being built years ago.

“Saber Strike was started for close air support training for JTACS and as it has evolved, it has pulled in these other maneuver units and fire units,” said Barth. “Now we have foreign nations training with artillery and mortars, ground -surface fire, integrated with jet fighters. It is a rare thing to have an artillery target next to a close air support target where those two munitions can fire the same target at the same time. This a very well driven exercise.”

As Saber Strike has evolved, so has the ability to train JTACs as a joint force with partner nations.

“We train with them and we work together; it’s all about joint,” said Barth. “We have to go out to the range and (train together), because voices sound different, accents are different, and words are different.”

While sharing their knowledge with each other, JTACs continue to build on the ability to maintain security in the region.

“(Saber Strike) is a really excellent exchange of experience,” Capt. Rihards Zalitis, Latvian Armed Forces Range Control Officer. “It makes our job easier to do and helps us to be better prepared for any unwanted incidents.”