Coalition team makes impact during RIMPAC fire support exercise
August 5, 2014
POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii (Aug. 5, 2014) -- A coalition team consisting of militaries from four different countries observed and coordinated surface and air attacks as part of the Rim of the Pacific exercise at Pu'u Ahi, July 25.
The team consisted of joint terminal air attack controllers, known as JTAC, and forward observer fire support team, or FST, members from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The team was tasked to coordinate surface fires and air support to neutralize, destroy or suppress a simulated enemy threat.
U.S. Marine Capt. Paul Lowman, 3d Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division weapons company commander and exercise battalion fire support coordinator, described the responsibilities participants of the exercise were required to fulfill.
"Throughout the hill they occupy a position as a fire support team," Lowman said. "What each of these teams do is they control surface and air. They get up, they occupy, they run through their FST battle drill, they determine where the enemy is and then determine how they want to go through creating a quick fire plan to actually destroy that enemy."
Australian Army Gunner Matthew Cook, Royal Australian Artillery joint fires team member, explained how tasks during the exercise are negotiated and completed.
"We're given a scenario to start with and that's what we base what fire we need to accomplish the task and from there we'll call in, whether it's artillery or mortars or an aircraft specific ordnance as well," Cook said. "Once the rounds are on the ground, we observe and then adjust on our targets until the mission has been accomplished."
From observation to execution, training alongside other countries' militaries has been valuable for many involved.
"We've certainly achieved our training objectives of maintaining currency and integrating with foreign forces," said New Zealand Army Staff Sgt. Haun Knibbs, Royal New Zealand Artillery, 16th Field Regiment JTAC. "Exercises such as RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) are extremely important for learning each others' procedures, getting a wider range of knowledge and skills and with some of the senior leadership here and senior JTACS passing on quite a lot of knowledge to us."
The resources available during RIMPAC have also proven beneficial, increasing training effectiveness.
"The training up here has been exceptional," said Canadian Army Capt. Andrew Curr, First Royal Canadian Horse Artillery forward observation officer. "There are a lot of assets that we don't normally get in Canada. We've had helicopters on station for four, or five or six hours a day, plus several levels of jets per day, so it's a great opportunity to practice a lot of skill sets at once."
Communicating to send munitions down range takes coordination, but isn't enough to successfully fulfill mission requirements.
"Every time you see a round go down range the accuracy counts," Lowman said. "You can throw as many bullets down there as you want, but if you don't hit the enemy it doesn't count. You adjust fire until you're absolutely on that target, you're having the effects that you need and then you can facilitate maneuver."
Lowman said that overall training with partners from from foreign militaries has been a valuable experience for the 3rd Marine Regiment, and everyone involved.
"The coalition partners are actually very proficient," Lowman said. "We've learned a lot from them and have given them some of our tactics and techniques. This is a really good exercise because we are building trust, we're building relationships and ultimately we're building that interoperability that is really what we're after in regards to RIMPAC."
Twenty-two nations, 49 ships, and six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participated in RIMPAC, which ran from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans.
RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971.