USS ESSEX, at sea - The Tactical Air Control Squadron 12 (TACRON), embarked with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) to provide support for the 2011 Talisman Sabre (TS11) exercise.
TACRON provides the Commander Amphibious Squadron 11 (CPR-11) with detachments of air controllers, operations specialists, support personnel and aviation warfare qualified officers to operate the Tactical Air Control Center (TACC) aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). Capt. Bradley Lee serves as the commodore of the CPR-11, which is comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42).
"We serve as the commodore’s air resource element coordinators," said Cmdr. Scott Parkinson, Air Resource Element Coordinator (AREC) TACRON 12. "What that means is we help ensure that all assigned aircraft and any external air support required is employed in a way that complies with the commodore's guidance in completing the Amphibious Task Force's (ATF) mission. For this exercise we stand ready to provide tactical air control and to coordinate all aviation resources in achieving the ATF mission.”
TS11 allows the 29 TACRON personnel aboard the opportunity to operate within the composite warfare commanders and component commanders constructs, which in turn enables them to work on interoperability. TACRON is also able to coordinate search and rescue missions for downed aircraft, man overboard, and medical evacuations.
“These kinds of exercises are very important to us in practicing our mission in a joint and combined environment,” said Parkinson. “The exercise is a chance for us to participate by practicing our mission as a combined task force.”
Talisman Sabre is a biennial, joint sponsored exercise by the U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Defense Force (ADF) Joint Operations Command. U.S. and Australian forces will conduct land, sea and air training around the Australian coast while practicing their ability to conduct joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
In the past two years, the Essex ARG has conducted five humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions throughout the Western Pacific, which is why this type of training with our allies is so essential, said Lee.
“Exercises like Talisman Sabre make us gel as a team and increase our knowledge of the job,” said Air-Traffic Controller 1st Class Cameron Porter, TACC supervisor. “This exercise is designed to prepare us for any mission that comes out, whether it is combat or humanitarian aid.”
Prior to coming aboard Essex, Porter said TACRON Sailors trained for two weeks in a lab, and then an additional two weeks at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. with the Essex air traffic control team in order to have qualified personnel.
This type of training has proved extremely relevant for units of the Essex ARG, which returned in April from providing disaster relief to regions of Japan affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The exercise is conducted to improve bilateral operations between the U.S. and Australia. TS11 is the largest joint military exercise undertaken by the ADF.
Both TACRON 12 and CPR 11 report to Commander Task Force 76 (CTF 76), headed by Rear Adm. Scott Jones.