Airmen Compete For ‘Prime TACP’ Title, as Air Power Plans Deep Cuts to Profession Subject

If there have been an Olympics for particular warfare Airmen, it might in all probability appear like the Dragon Problem, a three-day competitors at Fort Campbell, Ky., the place 33 Airmen carried out feats of bodily power and technical wizardry for the possibility to be named the most effective of their profession area within the 18th Air Assist Operations Group (ASOG).

The Airmen got here from three profession fields: Tactical Air Management Get together (TACP), intelligence, and particular warfare mission help (SWMS). TACPs are specialists in air-to-ground communication who embed with floor troops to name in air strikes and different types of air help. The intelligence Airmen assigned to the 18th ASOG assist paint the situational consciousness image for TACPs by performing surveillance and reconnaissance duties and information evaluation. 

In the meantime, SWMS Airmen present logistics, radio, cyber, provide, life help, and car administration to “maintain the TACP weapon system,” Capt. Katie Tamesis, public affairs officer for the 93rd Air-Floor Operations Wing, instructed Air & Area Forces Journal.

The annual Dragon Problem contains groups from every of the 4 squadrons of the 18th ASOG (which encompasses a dragon on its emblem). Over the three-day contest, contributors push by way of bodily health occasions, a job data examination, taking pictures challenges, and a 17-hour simulated particular operations mission. The Airmen vie for the title of high workforce within the TACP, SWMS, and Intel classes, and the highest TACP workforce will get to symbolize the group within the Lightning Problem, the place groups from your complete Air Power and Air Nationwide Guard will compete to be the most effective TACPs within the service later this 12 months.

The Dragon Problem pushed contributors “to their bodily and psychological limits,” mentioned Tamesis. That makes the problem really feel life like, since performing sophisticated duties underneath the pressure of bodily and psychological fatigue is actually a part of the job description, mentioned Capt. Tyler Johnson, operations flight commander for the nineteenth Air Assist Operations Squadron (ASOS).

“Doubtlessly having to infill 20 kilometers to your goal earlier than the mission even begins, you’re going to be drained,” he mentioned. “Carrying the entire gear it’s essential accomplish the mission over a protracted time frame, you need to have that endurance and that bodily health constructed into your coaching plan.” 

Apply makes excellent, and whereas Dragon Problem is a contest, lives might depend upon the abilities it checks.

“Plenty of the abilities that TACP operators are skilled to are perishable abilities, so if you happen to’re not consistently honing these talent units, you’ll lose them,” Johnson mentioned in a press launch in regards to the contest. “To be able to have the benefit within the subsequent battle, within the subsequent main fight operation that we’re concerned in, it’s necessary that TACPs keep these abilities.”

The simulated mission started with a helicopter infiltration to the mission web site, the place the competing groups dismounted and walked by way of simulated enemy terrain to the target space, the place Airmen gathered intelligence each with their very own eyes and the assistance of Military Black Hawk helicopters serving as eyes-in-the-sky.

To make issues extra attention-grabbing, the Black Hawks later acted as enemy plane, which the Airmen needed to keep away from with out being noticed. A couple of of the Airmen created “hid communication notes” for relaying concentrating on information up the chain of command with a view to develop strike packages and again down once more to assist with command and management. After a protracted evening on the goal space, the groups moved to an exfiltration web site, the place they supplied medical look after simulated fight casualties earlier than heading dwelling aboard the Black Hawks.

“The whole mission demonstrated the versatile command and management capabilities TACPs deliver to choice makers, combatant commanders, and joint companions in a near-peer battle and contested environments past shut air help,” Tamesis mentioned.

The give attention to abilities past shut air help comes because the broader Air Power prepares for a near-peer battle—and should drastically reshape the TACP profession area. As first reported by Air Power Occasions, the service plans to chop its TACP workforce (together with enlisted, officers, and civilians) from 3,700 slots to 2,130 by 2025, a 44 % drop. 

The drop in TACP personnel coincides with the gradual retirement of A-10 Warthog shut air help jets, which Air Power officers say wouldn’t survive refined air defenses in a possible battle with a near-peer adversary corresponding to Russia and China.

Nonetheless, the unsure future didn’t appear to have an effect on the trouble the TACPs put into Dragon Problem. 

“I get chills, I truthfully do,” Col. Richard Kovsky, commander of the 18th ASOG, mentioned within the press launch. “These guys are taking it actually severely, you go searching and also you see them, you recognize, a little bit bit nervous, after which they’re on the market, they’re on showcase … everyone’s watching.”

On the finish of the competition, the nineteenth ASOS took the title of finest total workforce, finest TACP workforce and finest SWMS workforce. The 14th ASOS gained finest intel workforce, and Employees Sgt. Daniel Edgar of the fifteenth ASOS took the title of high performer.