NAMEST AIR BASE, Czech Republic --
The Czech Republic led Exercise Ample Strike 2018 concluded this week. Ample Strike is a multi-national, live exercise conducted in various training areas across the southern region of the Czech Republic. The exercise offers advanced air/land integration training to joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) and close air support (CAS) aircrews.
Nineteen NATO allies and partner nations participated in the 4th iteration of the exercise focused on increasing proficiency levels of all JATCs and improving standardization and interoperability across NATO allies and partners.
“Flying with NATO partners is a great opportunity for me because I am constantly trying to learn different techniques and styles of flying,” said Lt. Col. Edward Conner, a KC-135 evaluator pilot, assigned to the 155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska Air National Guard. “Training with other countries’ pilots is the best way to learn how to be a more cohesive fighting force downrange.”
Ample Strike also gives JTAC’s the opportunity to train with allied nation JTACs and pilots. JTAC’s advise commanders on the use of air and other types of fire support. The fire support and protection of forces down range requires clear and concise communication with the air support flying above.
“Training with a pilot from a country where English is a second language is truly inspiring to me because they have to work harder than the rest of us to ensure the calls come in clear and we don’t put any of our guys in harm’s way,” said a senior airman attached to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England. “This training is vital to the interoperability of the NATO JTACs if a real world threat was to present itself.
In addition to the KC-135 and JTACs, F-16 aircraft assigned to the 162nd Wing, Arizona ANG and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft, assigned to the 307th Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, also participated in the exercise.
JTACs worked closely with the F-16 and B-52 aircraft during the exercise which covered day and night operations, friendly land maneuvers, opposing forces and simulated contested environments.
Lt. Col. Christopher Schneider, an F-16 pilot assigned to the 195th Fighter Squadron, Arizona ANG, said it was rewarding to be able to work with JTACs from around the world and learn how they execute the air to ground operations on a day-to-day basis to ensure everyone is on the same page when executing an actual mission.
The relationships built among our NATO allies and European partners provide the U.S. the strategic access critical to meet our commitment to respond to threats against them. Exercises like Ample Strike would not be possible without these relationships.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Parker, an in-flight refueling specialist assigned to the 155th ARW, echoed the importance of creating relationships when describing what he learned during Ample Strike.
“As one of the junior guys on the team, this is a great opportunity for me to come out to the Czech Republic and work with some talented Czech aircraft maintainers,” said Parker. “Being out here has taught me the importance of training with our allies and why we need to stay current on proper maintenance procedures.”
After Ample Strike, F-16, B-52 and KC-135 aircraft are scheduled to participate in the NATO Days airshow scheduled for Sept. 15-16 at Ostrava Air Base, Czech Republic. The air show will showcase heavy military hardware, police and rescue equipment, dynamic displays of Special Forces training, flying displays and presentations of armaments, equipment, and gear of individual units.