FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. --
A detachment of Marines from 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, or Anglico
, lit up the Stony Valley range here March 29 during close-air support training.
The detachment, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s command element, trained to keep current in the ever-evolving ways of commanding and controlling aircraft to destroy enemy targets, and thereby protect friendly forces.
On a given battlefield, joint terminal-attack controllers, also called forward-air controllers, direct and control air support. These controllers must know aircraft, new and old, and the ordnance they drop.
Taking part in the training was Maj. Brent Johnson, who, as the MEU’s air officer, is responsible for making sure the unit’s major subordinate elements get air support to accomplish their missions.
“I’m out here for the practice and to keep my (qualifications) up,” said Johnson.
Even though Johnson is a schooled, certified forward air controller, ordnance and aircraft are constantly improving. And so must a controller’s knowledge.
“As a (forward air controller), you have to be prepared for anything,” Johnson said. “You might get different (support) on station, and you must be ready to talk them on to the target.”
Though some methods are not widely used, Anglico personnel must be proficient in all aspects of fire, including mortars, artillery and naval gunfire, said Capt. Robert Suarez, the officer in charge of the MEU’s supporting-arms liaison team, or SALT.
The detachment’s primary function is calling in air support, which makes communication critical to telling pilots where to drop bombs.
Sgt. Mark Garside, a radio operator and Detroit native, is one of the Marines responsible for getting communication quickly up and running.
The Marines set up enough equipment to talk to MEU headquarters, the aircraft flying to the range, range control and those controlling the air for the base.
Each member of the relatively small detachment learns each other’s job.
“We learn how to control,” said Garside. “It’s more beneficial to the team, and it makes us better as a whole.”
The 11th MEU has been training at five installations in the state since March 20 as part of an air-ground task force exercise that ends April 9.