By 1ST LT. BEN SASAKI
6/4 Cav. Targeting Officer
Soldiers of the Cherokee Troop,
6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment and Airmen Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from Detachment 1, 10th Air Support Operations Squadron, participated in talk-on procedures with AH-64D Apaches from the 8th Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment, at Godman Army Airfield Friday.
The talk-on procedures prove critical for coordinating aerial fires in support of ground troops to avoid fratricide.
The AH-64D Longbow attack helicopter, the Army’s primary attack helicopter, is a quick reacting, airborne weapon system designed to destroy or disrupt enemy forces. The principal mission of the Apache is to destroy high value targets with its Hellfire missiles, 30mm M230 chain gun and 2.75 inch rockets.
Capt. Brian Schlesier, pilot, 8th Bn., 229th Aviation Regt., described the capabilities of the helicopter and techniques the Soldiers needed to know to effectively call for aerial fires with examples from his latest Afghanistan deployment.
“Effective air-ground coordination is essential for mission success on today’s battlefield,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Bryan Lietzke, JTAC. “With a limited number of Joint-Fires Observers and JTACs it is impossible to have one with every element that goes out. That specialist or private knowing how to talk to aircraft takes one more thing off the platoon leader’s plate and he can focus on directing his platoon in the fight.”
Spc. Christopher Barbari, a radio transmitter operator, Cherokee Troop, said the training gave him the confidence he needed to execute his mission in combat.
“I wanted to gain confidence talking on the radio, talking to the Apaches and getting them on target, giving them different tasks and purposes and stuff like that,” said Barbari. “Being out there and having the aircraft in real time gave me the confidence I needed to do it in an actual situation. I thought it was very helpful.”
The Soldiers practiced communicating with the pilots, simulating engagements with enemy targets in an Afghan village.
Lietzke said he thought the training went well and much was learned by the RTOs and the trainee pilots alike.
He said the RTOs learned that talking to aircraft is unlike talking to ground forces, plain language expedites attacks.
“I was impressed with the quickness with which the RTOs caught on,” said Lietzke. “The biggest take-away for anyone on their first control is that the pilot sees things from a bird’s eye perspective and you don’t, therefore, you have to think carefully about what you say.”
“I was expecting there to be a strict code of protocol on how to talk to them but I realized they were just like us. I was able to speak freely with them and the conversations were pretty helpful. The coolest part for me was that they didn’t actually have to be facing the enemy to engage targets that we were calling out.” said Barbari.