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Pilots from the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas, conducts a brief of a AH-64D Apache helicopter at the Parade Field on Adazi Military Base, Latvia, April 24, 2017.

The audience consisted of NATO JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) from Latvia, a U.S. Army fires team and U.S. JTACs.

 Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas attached to Task Force Falcon, land their AH-64D Apache attack helicopter at the parade field on military base during Operation Summer Shield as a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, April 24, 2017. As part of Operation Summer Shield the pilots and crew briefed the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) crews stationed at Military base, which consisted of U.S. Army and Air Force as well as Latvian armed forces, of the capabilities the Apache attack helicopter can provide to ground forces. This was an opportunity for U.S. Soldiers and Latvian soldiers to work shoulder to shoulder and demonstrates that the U.S. and our Allies and partners are making strides toward interoperability by continuously training together. Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. led effort in Eastern Europe that demonstrates U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlene Moler) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Charlene Moler)

Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas attached to Task Force Falcon, land their AH-64D Apache attack helicopter at the parade field on military base during Operation Summer Shield as a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, April 24, 2017 (Image courtesy of U.S. Army, Staff Sgt. Charlene Moler/Released)

“We brought everyone together to understand the capabilities of our aviation platform that we’re working with and how to use them on the battlefield,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dustin Stelljes, battalion air liaison officer who acts as lead JTAC for 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado.

Staff Sgt. Stelljes is stationed with 13th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Carson, but falls under Headquarters and Headquarters Company for 1st Bn., 68th Armored Reg. for missions. Each company in 1st Bn., 68th Armored Reg. has a JTAC team that reports to Stelljes, who directs them in how to operate with the ground commander.

Deployed, 1st Bn., 68th Armored Reg. operates under Operation Atlantic Resolve, which demonstrates the U.S. commitment to NATO by rotating U.S. -based units through the European theater during multiple exercises with NATO Allies.

The brief contained the physical capabilities of the AH-64D, what went into planning for a mission and which terrain the Apache was best suited for. The accuracy and speed of the missiles were described, as well as their penetrative capabilities. Refuel time was discussed, as well as, the satellite communication on the Apache.

“I think we opened their eyes to understand that this is a very capable asset and it can be used effectively in coordinated attacks, joint air attack teams and the multiple ways we can employ them on the battlefield,” Stelljes said.

In the eyes of 1st Lt. Vincent Franchino, a pilot and platoon leader for 1 Bn. 501st Attack Reconnaissance Bn., the brief provided more than information.

“The brief helped NATO Allies, specifically JTACs, the ones who control us on the battlefield, in certain environments, to really show them what it’s like from our perspective during the battle,” said 1st. Lt. Franchino.

Franchino invited U.S. Soldiers and Latvian soldiers into the cockpit for a closer view of the system. He covered areas such as controls, air transmissions, the area weapons system, preparing grids during a 9-line for a Call for Fire or Close Air Support (CAS), which is the direct support of troops on the ground by air assets.

Francino explained how targets visualized to the pilots on the screen and the information provided with it.

Communication between ground and air is vital. It means which target is engaged based on the unit’s priorities.

“That’s the most important piece of this entire thing, is the communication portion,” Franchino said. “We see things differently than they do.”


U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51st country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnership and enhance global security.

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