Coalition forces enable success

by 2nd Lt. Christopher Diaz
Joint Forces Air Component Command Public Affairs

With a two-hour notice, he grabbed his bags and jumped on an 18-hour flight headed thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean. Though it was hardly enough time to say goodbye to his family, they weren’t surprised that he was leaving. The call only confirmed what everyone saw unfolding on the news.

Canadian Air Force Capt. Dave Prowal is one of countless coalition members who reported here 11 days ago to support Operation Odyssey Dawn. As a Canadian liaison officer and mission planner, Captain Prowal contributes to the integral planning process that takes place in the Joint Forces Air Component Command Air Operations Center. Like many others deployed to the JFACC, he was called with short notice to support the OOD mission, leaving his home unit and family behind.

“Two days before I left, we had a family meeting based on the potential of me going,” he said. “We all agreed that if we were able to help the people of Libya, it’d be OK. They were going to miss me, but they knew it was for a larger cause.”

Across the AOC, uniforms of every color from 13 nations work 24 hours a day to accomplish the two-fold mission of enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya and protecting civilian lives. The urgency of the mission combined with the level of planning needed makes teamwork absolutely critical in this environment. Dedication of the coalition from the start has been imperative.

“It’s been successful with everyone working hard in the early stages to help each other,” said Royal Air Force Flight Lt. Kirstie Stewart. “The best part for me is just being able to support this mission.”

Though the hard work early on has paid off, the initial stages of the operation were anything but easy.

“The first two days was a shock because you’re working with people you don’t know in a different place,” said French air force Liaison Officer Capt. Christian Dauber. “It gets much easier after the first few days. You start to get answers more rapidly and now I really enjoy it.”

Captain Dauber has operated in joint environments like this before, but OOD has been a first for many others.

“This is my first experience in this kind of operation,” said Italian air force Liaison Officer Col. Roberto Di Marco. “It’s been a success, absolutely and completely. After this, we’ll take back things we’ve learned about how to coordinate and synchronize the many pieces of the operation needed to achieve the objective.”

With so many different coalition countries involved, physically bringing everyone together has been vital to such successful teamwork.

“The fact that they are here working side by side has made all the difference in the world,” said Maj. Frank Yoon, JFACC combat operations division judge advocate. “Face to face conversations and meetings have enabled us to resolve differences on the spot and has created clear flowing lines of communication, not just on the legal side, but on the operations side as well.”

Major Yoon described the complexity involved in working with so many different countries.

“What’s difficult is that the U.S. and coalition partners had to understand the caveats and operational limitations of each country, how each country defines and employs their rules of engagement and how that affects the mission,” he said. “Once we established a common operating understanding, the AOC was able to utilize every asset in an effective manner.”

Though the U.S. Air Force’s unique capabilities have facilitated bringing the coalition together, the success of OOD has required the strong partnership among all nations involved.

Among mission objectives being accomplished, there have been additional advantages of working side by side.

“On a personal and professional level, everyone is benefiting from interacting with all of the other air forces,” said Col. Jon Ullman, 617th Air Operations Center chief of combat operations. “The coalition liaison officers have been integral to the success of operations. It’s amazing how everyone has come together to achieve a common goal in such a short amount of time.”

Other countries making up the coalition involved in OOD are Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Norway, the Netherlands, Qatar, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

The JFACC is aligned under the Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn whose mission is to establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and protect civilian lives as part of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.