TACPs perform C2 ops near Arctic Ocean

A 7-person team of tactical air control party Airmen assigned to the 1st Air Support Operations Group conducted command and control operations near remote Utqiagvik and Point Barrow, Alaska, on the coast of the Arctic Ocean in support of Exercise Polar Quake, Jan. 10-14.

The exercise was designed to test the capabilities and limitations of current TACP training and equipment in an austere Arctic environment. With support from the 673rd Communications Squadron and 212th Rescue Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the team was tasked with establishing and maintaining multiple C2 nodes capable of supporting the Agile Combat Employment construct, including one at Point Barrow, the northernmost point in the United States.

“We’re here specifically to set up a tactical operations center in Utqiagvik and send out multiple precision strike teams along the coast and on the sea ice, utilizing some of our standard equipment and various additional items to test and evaluate new capabilities and sensors in order to collect battlespace awareness data and report that back to decision makers in the Air Operations Center at Joint Base Hickam-Pearl Harbor, Hawaii,” said Master Sgt. Willard Bruce, 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron flight chief. “Because it’s an Arctic scenario we’re also proving we can maneuver great distances through the environment across the entire coastline and send reports via an unhindered communication network.”

Each precision strike team consisted of three TACPs assigned to the 3rd ASOS accompanied by a pararescueman assigned to the 212th RQS for emergency support. Each day the teams set out from the TOC on snow machines, snow shoes, and cross country skis toward pre-determined remote points in the barren tundra where they worked in sub-zero temperatures to set up a tactical C2 node composed of High Frequency communication equipment. Once the node was operational, the team demonstrated they could relay intel back to the TOC, manned by Bruce and a Cyber Net Systems Operations specialist assigned to the 673rd CS. The personnel manning the TOC then pushed the information to the AOC.

“The big thing we’re trying to do is create the smallest footprint possible so we’re hard to detect and jam,” said Staff Sgt. Trenten Collins, 3rd ASOS, Detachment 1 Strike Team supervisor. “We can communicate using almost every spectrum, whether it’s satellite communication or HF, but for this exercise we’re primarily using HF. As TACPs, we’re always associated with kinetic air strikes but we can do anything on the battlefield; we’re very well-equipped to manage any type of C2 environment. Not only can we call in a strike package on a designated target, we can also go out, push forward, and collect intel on anything we need to because we already have the communications infrastructure at the tactical level to be able to relay information back to the TOC in order to get the mission done.”

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