Danish JTACs share Atlantic Strike experience

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
"Rocket propelled grenades incoming--get down," yelled a Danish army captian. "It's getting more accurate--move back now," he told the Airmen as he threw small explosives to simulate RPGs.

This was a normal day for Danish army Capt. Jessper Larsen, who was a training leader at Exercise Atlantic Strike. Larsen used his experience and knowledge to train and prepare joint terminal attack controllers to deploy to Afghanistan.

"I train the new JTACs who are going downrange and try to get as much information as possible into their heads so they are as prepared as can be," he said.

JTACs are trained forward observers who communicate directly with aircrew to coordinate the effective use of close air support. U.S. Air Force JTACs typically work with Army units but are tasked out as needed--often times to NATO allies.

"Working with coalition partners is one of the biggest things," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Callaway, 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing JTAC. "In current operations, we are working with other countries. So rather than putting someone in a combat environment without any experience working with coalition partners--if we can present that here at Atlantic Strike, we will. It's important to see how other services operate."

This was Larsen's fourth time at Atlantic Strike, an exercise that prepares joint air and ground forces for maximum battlefield effectiveness through realistic urban close air support training.

"We have instructors from Denmark facilitating some of the training," said Maj. Michael Steele, 18th Air Support Operations Group assistant director of operations and Exercise Atlantic Strike director. "They have been to Atlantic Strike before and are very fluid with the operations here.

"They have been one of the greatest assets here," he added. "Their teams are very experienced. All members have been to Operation Enduring Freedom so they bring a lot to the fight."

During one of the training scenarios, Larsen acted as the ground commander to train two U.S. Air Force JTACs.

"My job is so unique because we have Air Force, Army and Marines, and they are all working together towards the same goal," he said. "I work with U.S. and almost all NATO troops which makes it unique and also fun."

However, learning to work with other countries has its challenges, said Larsen.

"The biggest challenge when working with other countries is that all countries feel they are doing the right thing," he said. "A lot of times when I come in as an outsider, people pay attention to the uniform and not what's being said, but that usually goes away after a day or two."

While training the two U.S. Air Force JTACs, Larsen used small explosives and a stern voice to put them under stress.

"I try to mess up their game plan so they have to improvise their way out," said Larsen. "I can't shoot at them but I can do other things to put them under pressure. Once they realize their plan won't work, they have to come up with a new one, and that's when I back off. Then they realize what they need to do, and it actually lifts them to a new level. I'm trying to get them to find their boundaries."

At Atlantic Strike, Larsen's green and brown speckled uniform stood out among the sea of U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force uniforms. Larsen came in as an outsider but used his skill and experience to prepare JTACs of all nations and services.