RAF JTACs train at MHAFB

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Alone on a hilltop in the mid-day sun, 4,860 miles from home, a few brave men discretely move to a fortified position and prepare to call in close-air support on the enemy position below.

Joint Terminal Attack Controllers or Forward Air Controllers from the British Royal Air Force are currently training at Mountain Home AFB.

"The purpose of coming out here today was to get two of our junior JTACs some realistic training by coordinating with our American aircraft platforms," said British Flight Lieutenant Jamie Hilton, RAF Regiment Air-Land Integration Cell operations officer. "This range is fantastic for simulated operations training."

The RAF personnel have spent more than a week here and will continue to train throughout the next few days.

"Today is important to our guys because it's the only operationally realistic training we are able to do in this type of complex environment," said Hilton. "There are simulated threats and even a local national village down in the valley helping us deal with possible civilian interaction or collateral damage injects. These are the exact types of scenarios we face when deployed."

The JTAC's immediately got busy getting their deployment training started.

"This range and the facilities are like nothing we've got in Britain," said British Flight Lieutenant Matt Talbott, RAF Regiment Air-Land Integration Cell Tactical Air Control Party Four officer commanding. "We are so limited for space back home that most of our ranges are on the coastline and have really restrictive attack headings, meaning you can only come in a certain way for some attacks.

"Here there is so much open space and the range has been set up so well that we can use all attack headings on most targets," he continued.

Being better prepared for future deployments by using the MHAFB range was one of the key reasons for the British JTACs to come across the pond.

"Some guys just recently finished their basic forward air controller course and now have this great opportunity for expert education," said Talbott. "This will help them prepare for contingency operations throughout the world."

This was not the first time one member of the team has come to the United States for training.

"I've done a lot of exercises in the states and been to quite a few bases but I must say this is the best facility I have been on," said Hilton. "I've done a lot of tours to Iraq and Afghanistan and the range and training environment here is as close as possible to exact as I've seen.

"Having both squadrons here, the A-10's in Boise and of course this fantastic range to work on is quite ideal for us," he continued.

Unfortunately, the weather turned bad for the British JTACs who were forced to end training early for the day, yet spirits among the men remained high.

"Despite the unpredictable weather, our experience has been fantastic and I'm not just saying that," said Talbott. "The facilities are just brilliant, the range is excellent and the reception has been friendly and helpful from the base. Also the squadrons and the guys from Boise have been terrific and we just really appreciate it very much."

The sentiment was shared by his fellow controller.

"I also just want to say thank you very much to the people of Mountain Home Air Force Base," said Hilton. "It has really been an absolute pleasure exercising here and we look forward to returning the favor as well as coming back for more training."