CANADIAN MANOEUVRE TRAINING CENTER, CAMP WAINRIGHT, Alberta --
The Marines and Sailors of 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, successfully completed Exercise Maple Resolve 2015 with the Canadian Armed Forces at the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Center, Camp Wainwright, Alberta, May 16, 2015.
The multi-national exercise, conducted annually by the Canadian Army, is a three-week high-readiness validation exercise for Canadian Army elements designated for domestic or international operations. This year, the 1st Canadian Army Division and the 5th Canadian Mechanized Battle Group (5 CMBG) were supported by the British 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade, various U.S. Army elements, and for the first time, members of I MEF’s 1st ANGLICO. The exercise participants also had to battle harsh temperatures and varying weather conditions, mainly seeing extreme fluctuations in the same day.
“I brought essentially a slice from my entire command from my company headquarters all the way down,” said Lt. Col. Brian Russell, 1st ANGLICO’s commanding officer. “[We] bring fire support planning, coordination, and capabilities to integrate with our allied partners.”
1st ANGLICO, made up of two brigade platoons, brought a portion of 2nd Brigade Platoon to integrate into the 5 CMBG command post which kept track of the battlefield and its operations and coordinated fire support for service members on the ground. 2nd Brigade is made up of a headquarters team and two supporting arms liaison teams (SALT).
“Generally, 1st ANGLICO works with everyone but Marines. We are an allied unit’s link into the Marine Air Ground Task Force,” said Maj. Edwin Whiteman, the 2nd Brigade platoon commander. “We also provide a communications capability that they may not provide for themselves, so it’s good for the brigade to plug into a regimental sized maneuver element, which is something we don’t get to do very often.”
The brigade’s two SALTs provide fire support coordination, communications and fire support planning capabilities to their supported units within 5 CMBG. The SALT consists of a headquarters team and two teams of five Marines called Firepower Control Teams or FCTs. The SALT is typically made up of joint terminal air controllers (JTAC), radio operators and joint fires observers (JFO) but can vary if the mission requires it. A FCT is usually made up of JFOs and JTACs. The SALT attaches the FCTs to different company-sized elements that need the assistance of JFOs.
According to Russell, a key part of 1st ANGLICO’s capabilities is their JFO’s ability to be effective and reliable in a stressful and friction-filled situation such as this exercise.
The JFOs act as the eyes for the joint terminal air controller (JTAC). The JTAC’s job is to manage and coordinate supporting air assets with ground elements. The JFO embeds with a company and performs all the duties that element is required to accomplish while still providing that fire support coordination and communications portion back to the JTAC. These elements can vary from reconnaissance assets to light armoured vehicles and tanks.
“Being a JFO, you have to be quick and decisive with your actions,” said Sgt. Sean O’Brien, a joint fires observer with 1st ANGLICO. “You have to be calm throughout the chaos. You have to be that rock that keeps it together to get the fire support that ground element needs when a conflict breaks out.”
Having JFOs under 1st ANGLICO allows the Marine Corps and allied forces to function at a higher level while working with the unit during combat operations and in training.
“Coming up here and being able to make some good relationships and meet the people that make up the Canadian forces and establish a good working relationship is great, so when we do go somewhere together these relationships already exist and it eases the transition as we start to work together,” Whiteman added.
Canadian Army Capt. Patrick Lanouette, a fire effect center coordination officer with 5e Regiment d’ artillerie du Canada, said 1st ANGLICO has been crucial in helping them communicate and provide fire support for service members on the frontlines when they needed it most. Lanouette added that he hoped to be able to join some of 1st ANGLICO’s exercises in the future to expand on their capabilities and continue to increase familiarity and build upon the relationships created during the exercise.
The exercise ended with great success as Canadian forces with the help of 1st ANGLICO were able to effectively complete all objectives over the three-week exercise thus validating the Canadians’ effectiveness in theater and proving the value of 1st ANGLICO.