4th Combat Training Squadron strengthens global alliances

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jermaine Capalos, 4th Combat Training Squadron joint terminal attack controller, participates in close air support training to meet JTAC qualifications, during exercise BigFoot Nord 20 at Nordhorn Training Range, Oct. 9. The objective of BFN 20 was to allow the JTAC team to build partnership capacity and obtain career qualifications in a contested environment. Courtesy photo

Nordhorn Training Range, Germany — The 4th Combat Training Squadron’s Joint Terminal Attack Controllers conducted close air support training with German, Belgian and Dutch forces at Nordhorn Training Range, Germany as part of BigFoot Nord 20, Oct. 5-9.

The objective of BigFoot Nord 20 was to enhance partnerships with allies and apply career competencies in a contested environment.

“The JTACs are a vital part of our frontline warfighters so it is important they remain sharp by training with an array of available coalition air assets in the midst of highly-capable dynamic threats,” said Capt. Nolan J. Ripple, 4th CTS operations flight commander. “Our JTACs are innovating advanced CAS (close air support) training opportunities to enhance their readiness to operate within a robustly contested battlespace.”

Exercises such as BigFoot Nord 20 are meant to strengthen alliances and attract new partners. These partnerships create long-term advancement of U.S. interests, maintain favorable balances of power that deter aggression and support the stability that generates economic growth, a central tenant in the National Defense strategy.

“What sets our BigFoot series apart as an advanced CAS exercise is the scenario development led by combat-experienced JTAC instructors,” said Lt. Col. Sarah Fortin, 4th CTS director of operations. “The U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa warfare center detachment 3’s ‘Polygone,’ the dynamic surface to air threat emitters, were also incorporated into scenarios for added complexity for both participating aircrew and JTACs.”

During the exercise, the 4th CTS was supported by multiple aircraft including Dutch F-35A’s, F-16 Fighting Falcons, Belgian F-16 Fighting Falcons and German Tornado aircraft, in order to help the JTACS meet objectives for CAS.

“We train with our allies and partners to help us overcome issues and determine solutions so we can continue to operate effectively and efficiently together in the future,” said Tech. Sgt. Jermaine Capalos, 4th CTS JTAC course manager instructor. “Working with the ground liaison officers and the aircrew of the Dutch 322nd Squadron gave our team crucial insight on how to develop, plan, and execute digitally aided close air support utilizing the F-35A and F-35 Lightning II aircraft.”

The next advanced CAS training is scheduled for 2021 in Croatia, alongside Croatian JTACs. This first iteration of BigFoot Nord aimed to prepare the JTACs for future exercises with partner nations around USAFE-AFAFRICA, by examining strengths and identifying workable skills.