MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. --
In a combat environment, every mission has a strategic effect. Every foot patrol, logistics convoy, aerial resupply or F/A-18 flight is vital to the big picture.
To help coordinate the hundreds of moving pieces involved in an aviation combat element, the Marine Corps operates a Tactical Air Command Center, which is the principal Marine Corps air command and control agency from which air operations and air defense warning functions are directed.
The mission of the TACC is to supervise, coordinate, and execute all current and future air operations in support of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The tactical air command center can provide integration, coordination, and direction of joint air operations.
During Exercise Southern Fury, May 4-13, a group of reserve Marines from TACC East, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, were responsible for being the TACC during the exercise. They coordinated every aerial mission, assigned targets and were responsible for the “big picture” during the exercise. Their staff brought a wealth of experience with them to help plan, implement and supervise the large force exercise.
“You need the war fighter’s input,” said Col. Mike Kenny, the commanding officer of TACC East. “Some of these young pilots have only 600 to 800 hours of flight time so you get a different experience level when you have 12 guys totaling 36,000 hours of flight time.”
Being able to work side by side with the Marines of the aviation combat element was a welcome change for the unit.
“Our unit is located in Atlanta and it’s very difficult to maintain proficiency in a TACC environment there,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Moon, the rotor wing operations officer for TACC East. “Here at Beaufort, they have the equipment, the personnel and the aircraft to actually get out there and make these things happen without it being purely notional. It’s very worthwhile for us to be here and work with the active duty component.”
Being able to interact with the active duty Marines gave the TACC Marines a chance to make sure they were all operating with the same standard operating procedures. Having one set way of doing things ensures that every unit is able to work together without confusion.
“The reason for our training is to not only build our proficiency level, but also to ensure that active duty and reserve components are speaking the same language with the same voice,” Moon said. “In the past that wasn’t always the case, but after 9/11 it became very important that we are all at the same level of proficiency and knowledge.”
Because they are reservists they know that they can be called up at anytime to support active duty Marines. So, it is vital that they are well trained and capable of stepping in to fill a need.
“One of the challenges that we’ve faced over the past five and a half years is that due to the war effort, the active duty personnel are deploying and rotating so quickly, that it’s almost impossible for us to keep subject matter experts in these different arenas,” said Moon. “So, we end up with these voids back in the U.S., because they are sending all the pros overseas. In the end, we have to fill these voids somehow and the best way to fill them is by having the TACC East roll in here and become subject matter experts that can support the active duty guys.”
During the exercise the TACC Marines orchestrated more than 200 training sorties from the planning stages until completion and manufactured the Air Tasking Orders for the exercise. They also helped provide coordination with the joint units taking part in the exercise, such as the 682nd Air Support Operations Squadron, from Pope Air Force Base, N.C