AGOS helps NATO train Estonian, Swedish troops for deployment

by Master Sgt. Corey Clements
USAFE Public Affairs

Two Estonian air force members and a Swedish army ranger spent a week in pre-deployment briefings, computer simulation and field training as forward air controllers thanks to the joint efforts of the staff at the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Ground Operations School and the International Security Assistance Force Cell at NATO Allied Air Component Command Headquarters.

The briefings took place from Aug. 17 to 21 at Ramstein.

The FACs, known to the U.S. military as joint terminal attack controllers, are responsible for calling in air strikes during close air support operations.

Lt. Col. Tony Forkner, USAFE AGOS commander, offered his facilities, equipment and staff to help the NATO CC-Air Ramstein ISAF Cell prepare them for deployment.

“We’re giving them the opportunity to practice in simulator scenarios and provide equipment which some of the nations may not have at home (station) for hands-on instruction but may encounter downrange,” Colonel Forkner said. “Partnering to win today’s fight is one of USAFE’s priorities.”

Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Picoc, who is in charge of training and evaluations at the USAFE AGOS, showed the FACs upgrades to the ROVER III, a kit that mainly consists of a tactical laptop, antennas, cables and other items used to receive live video feed from aircraft during close air support operations.

“These guys are already qualified FACs,” Sergeant Picoc said. “Our intent is to get them familiar with all the new stuff that has come out in the last couple of years so that when they see new equipment it’s not in a combat situation. They’ve gotten to sit down and talk about things in a classroom environment and practice with the simulators on some of the newest equipment and procedures.”

To add to the academics, the FACs spent a day at a range in Grostenquin, France, where they had the chance to call in simulated air strikes with real A-10, Alpha jet and F-16 aircraft.

The FACs had the opportunity to set up the ROVER III kit and download live aircraft video feeds to see exactly what the pilots saw during the CAS training operations. They were also able to work with U.S. Army Joint Fires Observer students from the USAFE AGOS, who relayed targeting data by radio to the FACs for their simulated attacks to practice how CAS operations are currently employed in theater.

In agreement with the hands-on fundamental training provided by the USAFE AGOS, the NATO ISAF Cell educated and tested the FACs on current rules of engagement and intelligence for ISAF operations in Afghanistan, where the FACs will be deploying in coming months.

“A very important part we went through was SPINS (special instructions) tests for Afghanistan,” said Estonian air force 2nd Lt. Evo Koiv. “Most of it was (previously) given on a CD, but when I read it, it was kind of dry. It was good to have someone with more experience commenting on it and highlighting things.”

Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Keven Gambold, from the ISAF Cell, facilitated this endeavor, which is the first of classes they plan to do four times a year with the USAFE AGOS to provide additional reiterative training to FACs of nations that want to contribute to international operations but may not have the means to provide the latest equipment and procedures.

“We got knowledge of what’s going on in theater now,” said Junior Sgt. David Mellov, of the Estonian air force. “And to get training from guys who have been there and done the job, has been an excellent experience with the U.S. The relationship with the instructors was perfect, and the training was absolutely important.”

Swedish army ranger Capt. Timothy Walsh said the training was well run.

“It was more than any expectations I had,” he said.