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5th ASOS takes it to the field

Airmen fire on all cylinders during Yakima FTX

A U.S. Air Force tactical air control party airman with the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron holds his position during a small unit tactics exercise at Yakima Training Center, Washington, April 28, 2021. Credit: Airman 1st Class Callie Norton

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YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER -The 5th Air Support Operations Squadron, located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, conducted a week-long field training exercise here, April 26-30, 2021.

The exercise was an all-encompassing training to become more proficient in infiltration and exfiltration, small arms marksmanship, heavy weapons utilization, small unit tactics, and force-on-force full mission profiles in order to meet changing tactical requirements and advance ground skill sets for varying mission requirements.

The exercise also emphasized integrating the entire squadron to ensure combat mission support airmen understand firsthand what the tactical air control party mission entails.

"The goal of this FTX was to bring everyone together, whether you are a TACP or combat mission support airman, and teach basic combat line and ground skills," said Tech. Sgt. Eian Andrew, 5th ASOS noncommissioned officer in charge of B-flight and one of the organizers of the FTX.

Day one focused on heavy weapons familiarization with live-fire iterations, shooting the M-4, M-240, M-249, M-2 and MK-19 weapon systems. Personnel received training on function checks, how to clear the weapon, barrel control and practice dry and live-fire of each weapon.

On day two, 5th ASOS airmen used M-4s to exercise their long-range marksmanship skills. Following dry runs and weapon familiarization, the team held live-fire competitions for who could hit the longest shot, as well as random pop-up targets approximately 800 meters away. 

"Since our personnel carry them daily in combat, repetition handling the M-4 is crucial to giving airmen the confidence and understanding they need to operate it safely and effectively," Andrew said.

Approximately 60,000 rounds of ammunition were used throughout the exercise.

In addition to weapons utilization, combat life-saving skills were also a large part of the exercise. All airmen were trained on various medical practices including body and litter carries, wound dressing and tourniquet application. 

"My goal is for the airmen to walk away knowing they understand these tools, how to use them, can do it safely, effectively and save a life," said Nick Chavis, a trainer tasked with providing medical instruction throughout the week.

The 5th ASOS put their weapons and medical training to use throughout the remainder of the FTX by practicing small unit tactics.

Each platoon moved through an open field, cleared out an assault area and raided a compound exercising close quarters combat as a team.

"Every TACP integrates into an Army combat force, whether that's a platoon size, fire team or even a division," Andrew said. "Understanding what happens on the ground helps build their abilities to integrate into any Army element and serve them better as a (joint terminal attack controller)."

On the final day, teams were provided an exercise mission with intel that there was a high value individual located in the area. The platoon's objective was to plan where to maneuver, how to go about clearing the village, locate the individual and exit the village safely against the other platoons.

"This brings us all together as a team," Andrew said. "It exposes our CMS personnel to foundational skills in this career field, and for our TACPs, it also helps bridge the gap from our young JTACs and more experienced JTACs."

The 5th ASOS has held FTX's in the past involving all squadron personnel, however, they usually are tasked to focus on their own jobs throughout.

"This exercise is different because it requires all career fields to collaborate regardless of their duty title or previous experience," Andrew said. "It builds that working relationship and gives them the confidence to show up to any unit and support where needed."

The 5th ASOS plans to hold another FTX in the fall that will build on what the airmen learned this week.

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