WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND WHERE YOU SHOULD GO BEFORE DEPLOYING AS A FIRE SUPPORTER TO CJTF-OIR

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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND WHERE YOU SHOULD GO BEFORE DEPLOYING AS A FIRE SUPPORTER TO CJTF-OIR

 

By CPT Destry S. Balch

 

As the Army shifts to large scale ground combat operations, the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) fire support enterprises train to current doctrine that support their Mission Essential Tasks.  Although the various Fires Cells in Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) accomplish their assigned missions safely and effectively, the fires community needs to better prepare its Battalion Fires Cells (BN FCs) to rapidly deploy and assume their duties and tasks.  The systems and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of CJTF-OIR echo throughout the Joint Force, and will be directly applicable to future Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO).

In June 2020, Task Force (TF) White Falcon, (2-325 AIR, 2BCT, 82nd ABN DIV) deployed to Central Command (CENTCOM) Area of Operations (AOR) in support of CJTF-OIR.  The primary mission of TF White Falcon was to provide an O-5 level headquarters to command and control battlespace in Syria, support the CJTF-OIR commander in the transition from Phase III of the CJTF-OIR Campaign Plan (Combat Operations) to Phase IV (Stability Operations), ensure the military defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and deter malign actors from disrupting U.S. interests in the CJOA in order to buy time and decision space for strategic level leaders.

The TF White Falcon BN FC was responsible for managing airspace the size of Sicily, resourcing close air support (CAS) platforms, conducting Target Mensuration, determining deliberate and dynamic Collateral Damage Estimation, integrating Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, and conducting deliberate and dynamic targeting of declared enemy hostile forces while maintaining an intimate understanding of the CENTCOM and CJTF-OIR Rules of Engagement (ROE). 

The learning curve of the TF White Falcon FC was steep, but was stemmed immensely due to the schools its personnel attended, the systems it exercised before leaving the United States, and the CJTF-OIR Fires SOP focused training it implemented before its deployment to the CJOA. 

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

  1. Fires in CJTF-OIR are reliant upon SIPRNET. FSOs, AFSOs, FSNCOs, and targeting NCOs cannot do their job without a SIPR Token and active SIPR account.  Units often overlook or put off this task but if personnel arrive in theater without SIPR Tokens or accounts, it will take them away from their outstations for up to 7-10 days, causing critical capability gaps. 
  2. Upper Tactical Internet (T/I) through SIPRNET is the primary means of communication throughout the CJOA. During deployment train up, most BNs communicate primarily on Lower T/I radios and analog products, and have an underdeveloped understanding of Upper T/I operations.  BN FCs must arrive in theater with a basic understanding of SIPRNET and the following programs, and must integrate them into their home station training before deployment.

    1. Internet Relay Chat (mIRC). A standard chat service with chat rooms and capabilities to directly message other users, mIRC is the primary means of transmitting fire mission data, airspace clearance requests, and basic reporting requirements.  More information on mIRC can be found at https://intellipedia.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/MIRC
    2. THRESHER ingests live, near-real-time tracks of aircraft inflight from a variety of national, tactical, and open sources, and correlates the tracks to produce a single air picture that improves air situational awareness by displaying object tracks, object telemetry (location, speed, altitude, call sign, etc.), and spatial data visualization.  More information and the SIPRNET hyperlink for THRESHER can be found at https://intellipedia.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Talon_THRESHER

 

  1. Digital Imagery Exploitation Engine (DIEE 2.2). DIEE is the currently authorized and primary means of target mensuration and collateral damage estimation in CENTCOM.  FCs cannot conduct accurate or precise targeting without an understanding of DIEE 2.2.  The best method to develop the required familiarity with DIEE 2.2 is through the Target Mensuration Only (TMO) course, and the CENTCOM CDE Course.  More information on DIEE 2.2 can be found at the CENTCOM CDE Share Portal at https://intelshare.intelink.sgov.gov/sites/centcomcde/_layouts/15/start.aspx#/SitePages/CDE.aspx

 

  1. Google Earth. Google Earth is a virtual globe software program. It maps the Earth by superimposing images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS over a 3D globe and allows importing vector data for overlaying on the imagery. The Google Earth software program is unclassified, but the program must connect to a server for use.  Although there are multiple options to create a common operational picture (COP), Google Earth tends to be the default COP that entities use across multiple services, domains, servers, and systems throughout CJTF-OIR.  More information on Google Earth can be found at https://intellipedia.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Google_Earth

 

  1. Fusion Analysis and Development Effort (FADE). FADE is an intelligence program that develops, trains, and supports a multi-intelligence knowledge management and big data analysis platform.  Multi-Intelligence Spatial Temporal Tool suite (MIST) is the geospatial data visualization and analysis application. MIST enables analysts to quickly and efficiently analyze large volumes of data from multiple sources and fuse those data sets together in a single report.  FADE/MIST is an invaluable tool for the BN intelligence and fires section, and is one of the most user-friendly methods to collect intelligence that directly relates to the fires warfighting function.  More information on FADE/MIST can be found at https://intellipedia.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Fusion_Analysis_and_Development_Effort#.28U.29_Tools.2FCapabilities
  1. Due to the size of the battle space and required precision for target engagements in CJTF-OIR, fires within the CJOA are primarily delivered by close air support (CAS) assets. FCs must have a comprehensive understanding of CAS capabilities, employment, and method of resourcing.  The FCs execute this through the Joint Tactical Air Request (JTAR) process, which nests within the CENTCOM Air Tasking Cycle.  BN FCs should actively seek to educate themselves on the Joint Air Tasking Cycle, the structure of the Joint Air Operations Center, the duties of fighter squadron Ground Liaison Officers, the Air Tasking Order, and the Airspace Control Order.  JP 3-09 (Joint Air Operations) provides fundamental principles and guidance for the conduct of joint air operations and should be used as a baseline to educate and inform BN FCs on the Joint Force Air Component Command. 
  2. Ultra-High Frequency Line of Sight (UHF LOS) and Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) communications are the primary means of fire support command and control throughout the CJOA, most especially with aircraft. Very-High Frequency (VHF) LOS communications (such as RT-1523 frequency modulation radios) are primarily used for base defense and internal communications in convoys.  BN FCs should emphasize UHF LOS and TACSAT equipment (such as the PRC-152 and PRC-117G) during training at home station in order to prepare for the primary means of communicating with adjacent and higher fire support entities,
  3. FCs need to have a comprehensive understanding of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum when they arrive to theater. Understanding EM band names, frequencies, effects of terrestrial/space weather, and what systems use which EM bands will prove to be an invaluable baseline that will enable understanding and manipulation of the operational environment through non-kinetic targeting.  JP 3-85 (Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations) is a great starting point for BN FCs to gain the necessary baseline.
  4. Throughout CJTF-OIR, fire supporters become the de-facto personnel responsible for understanding and implementing radar systems. 131As are in short supply in most BCTs, and the majority of outstations throughout the CJOA do not have a formal radar sensor manager.  Understanding the theory of operation and employment of the AN/TPQ-50, AN/TPQ-53, AN/MPQ-64, and the Raytheon Ku-band Radio Frequency System (KuRFS) is imperative to effectively employ them as part of the “sensor to shooter” architecture.
  5. Very specific Rules of Engagement (ROE) apply to every target engagement, and every munition a FC employs. Every leader should have an intimate understanding of the CENTCOM and CJTF-OIR ROE, most especially fire support personnel.  Unfortunately, the only formal briefing that occurs is GFC certification training for field grade officers when they arrive to theater.  FC personnel should reach out to the CJTF-OIR Judge Advocate and request the most current GFC Certification Slide Deck and ROE for CENTCOM and CJTF-OIR before arriving to theater. 
  6. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Air Defense Artillery (ADA) operations have become increasingly relevant and complex in modern warfare, and CJTF-OIR is no exception. Counter-UAS (C-UAS) operations occupy a much larger portion of a unit’s time than is ever trained in garrison.  As units assume their roles as battlespace owners in the CJOA, the responsibility for C-UAS and ADA operations will most likely fall on the shoulders of the Fires Warfighting Function.  A basic knowledge of C-UAS and ADA systems is imperative to successful base defense, and must be part of the academic focus before arriving to theater.  More information on C-UAS operations can be found at https://cd.nonrel.centcom.smil.mil/B2C2WG/CUASWG/SitePages/Home.aspx
  7. FCs can only plan, resource, and coordinate within CTJF-OIR by understanding the command/support relationships between dozens of entities and echelons as part of the Joint Force Construct. Several courses listed below provide a good baseline understanding of the Joint Force Construct, but fire supporters must be able to identify the locations, composition, and relationships between delivery systems, fire support entities, and Force Field Artillery Headquarters. 

WHERE YOU SHOULD GO

There is never enough time to execute all the training and education a unit wants to accomplish, but the fires community must start prioritizing more professional military education over training for FCs before deployment.  Training at home station is invaluable, but BN FCs are not executing standard BN FC tasks in CJTF-OIR; they are executing BDE FC, and Joint Fires tasks without the accompanying enablers or systems. 

Below is the summation of all courses attended by TF White Falcon BN FC personnel before deploying to CJTF-OIR.  These schools enabled an invaluable baseline that allowed rapid assumption of mission, flexibility, and lethality. 

  1. Joint Firepower Course (JFC) at Nellis Air Force Base, NV. 2-week Mobile Training Team (MTT) or Resident TDY.  CJTF-OIR is a product of the Joint Force Construct, and JFC provides formal instruction on joint fire support entities and joint doctrine.  JFC creates a deep understanding of the Theater Air Ground System, how the fires warfighting function fits into the Military Decision Making Process, and a basic understanding of the Air Tasking Cycle and JTAR process.
  2. Joint Air Operations Command & Control Course (JAOC2C) at Hurlburt Field, FL. 5-week Resident TDY.  JAOC2C is the most in-depth option to create an intimate knowledge of the Air Tasking Cycle, the Joint Air Operations Center construct, the JTAR process, airspace management, and how the Air Component Commander apportions air power to support tactical and operational objectives.  The Army Joint Support Team (AJST) provides a 3-day period of instruction on Fire Support Command and Control Systems and provides invaluable insight to leverage air assets to accomplish the GFCs objectives. 
  3. CENTCOM Collateral Damage Estimation (CENTCOM CDE) at MacDill Air Force Base, FL. 2-week Resident TDY.  CENTCOM CDE provides certification to allow FCs to make formal CDE calls in the CENTCOM AOR.  Although the first week is similar to the standard CDE course offered by Ft. Sill, CENTCOM CDE is the only way to become CDE certified for the CENTCOM AOR and is the only school that provides a detailed period of instruction on DIEE.  This course offers an opportunity for fire supporters to gain an understanding of the CENTCOM targeting and fire support standards, reviews CENTCOM ROE, and provides invaluable resources and contact information to its students.  Although it is not a required certification to have in a BN FC, formal CENTCOM CDE certification is an absolutely necessary tool that every BN FC should have.  Without it, CDE calls must be outsourced to the next higher fires cell, and the local GFC cannot make timely and informed decisions on when, where, and how to engage targets when collateral concerns are a factor. 
  4. Target Mensuration Only (TMO) at local duty station or Ft. Sill, OK. 1 week local or Resident TDY.  TMO provides a formal certification to mensurate target locations and extract target locations to the nearest 3 meters (laterally and in altitude); a requirement for every strike that is submitted in the deliberate targeting process.  Although it is not a required certification to have in a BN FC, TMO certification is an absolutely necessity in an operational environment that is unforgiving of inaccurate or imprecise munition delivery. 
  5. Tactical Information Operations Planners Course (TIOPC). 2 week MTT.  TIOPC is a course designed to provide the knowledge and skills to plan information operations at the tactical level to achieve the GFCs objectives in the information environment.  In an operational environment that is becoming increasingly complex against a hybrid threat, BN FCs must have a working knowledge of the Information Operations, Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations, Public Affairs, Electronic Warfare, and Military Deception. 
  6. Joint Fires Observer Course (JFO) 2 week MTT or Resident TDY. Not entirely the exclusive purview of the BN FC, but having qualified JFOs in the formation are a force multiplier that cannot be understated in CJTF-OIR, especially in Syria.  The air component is a vital piece to fire support in the CJOA, and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs)/Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs) are always in short supply.  Bringing qualified JFOs forward to the CJOA drastically increases the tactical reach of the JTACs and TACPs, and proves to be an invaluable asset to enhance the ability to command and control air assets. 

The topics covered in this article are by no means exclusive.  Nothing will ever prepare fire supporters as much as a mastery of the basics that they experience during Joint Fire Support Certifications and Combat Training Center rotations.  However, the ever evolving operational environment requires fire supporters to be lethal with methods that develop faster than doctrine can codify, to be proficient in systems not currently used in training, and flexible enough to fit any problem set they are required to solve.  In order to accomplish these means, the fire support community must better prepare itself for deployments to CJTF-OIR, and put much more focus on educating the force before assuming its mission in the CJOA.