French Air Force Helps US Army and Air Force Integrate Training

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The Army and Air Force have been working hard to improve joint training at the National Training Center (Fort Irwin, CA), according to senior leaders at the combat training center. Army brigade combat teams are training here with other service assets and coalition partners to prepare forces for the challenges they will face once deployed in a high-stress combat environment.

The 3rd BCT, 1st Cavalry Division from Ft. Hood, Texas, has been training here with their Air Force counterparts from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., along with Normandie Niemen, a French Air Force Mirage F1 fighter squadron from Colmar, France.

Helping to support this joint integrated training environment is U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team.

“NTC and Green Flag West are great examples of how we can link traditional service-level exercises into one well-synchronized training event that benefits all participants and services,” said Army Maj. Thomas Hansbarger, JFIIT lead at NTC.

Army Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard, Commanding General, Ft. Irwin and NTC, explained the NTC mission.

“We are the National Training Center,” he said. “We train here just as we fight in theater – joint, multinational, interagency. We are an ever evolving training center and work hard to integrate all members of the team…we want everyone to come here and train.”

NTC provides services with a realistic and rigorous training venue, preparing them to fight as a joint and coalition team.

“It’s not about us – it’s about creating one seamless team. We’re drawing from so many assets – joint, special operation forces, multinational, interagency including the FBI and CIA, and we’re partnering with the other combat training centers,” said Pittard. “We don’t want our men and women in uniform having to do something for the first time in combat…we’ve got to get it right here.”

During this training rotation, the French Air Force partnered with Green Flag West at Nellis Air Force Base and NTC to provide a detachment of Mirage F1 aircraft, support personnel, and joint terminal air controllers to improve close air support training for both militaries. French Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Oudot, commander of the French detachment at Green Flag West, explained the importance of his country’s participation.

“We came here to train with the American military because we know when we work together as a close team, as brothers, we can defeat any adversary,” Oudot said. “We must train together just like we fight, as a close team of professionals with a common purpose and goal in mind – Green Flag West and NTC provide us that opportunity.”

Part of JFIIT’s mission during this exercise was to help integrate a variety of joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets with an Army BCT to benefit the training of all services. This training rotation included support from a Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, a RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft, and a MQ-9 Reaper.

“Green Flag West and NTC provides world-class close air support training in a very realistic and demanding environment for the Air Force, Army, and our coalition partners,” said Air Force Maj. Paul Kirmis, director of operations, 549th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base.

“Our mission is to train to the current fight, and this exercise serves as the primary Air Force spin-up for our forces before they deploy to fight against that threat,” Kirmis said. “Our goal here is to create a mini-Iraq or Afghanistan and allow our forces to train together here exactly like they will once deployed in combat.”

“We want a realistic assessment of our JTACs, aircrews, and our entire team,” said Oudot. “The feedback that we’re receiving in this exercise is invaluable and demonstrates the strength of our military partnership. We must continue to train together in order to fight together…nothing can split our team.”

According to NTC leadership, organizations like JFIIT and others enhance integration of joint assets and provide vital resources at these training venues, educating units about how to leverage available capabilities of the entire team.

Fusion of joint, interagency, and multinational assets to enhance service, joint, and coalition training at NTC will continue for the foreseeable future, added Pittard.

“What we’re creating here is the most realistic operational training environment that prepares the entire team for what they will experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re growing our future leaders here – joint leaders that will understand how to fight full spectrum operations,” he said. “We’re doing this the right way and that’s joint.”

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