by Staff Sgt. Wes Wright
JBER Public Affairs
8/26/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Fliers and ground crews got used to a lot of foreign accents throughout Red Flag Alaska 15-3.
However, for U.S. and coalition C-130 Hercules pilots, one unique accent
that routinely pierced the steady droning noise of their Pratt and
Whitney motors came from Royal Thai Air Force combat controllers.
Going by their call signs, RTAF combat controllers "Nok" and "Piglet,"
Flight Sgt. 1st Class Saknarong Wongin and Flight Lieutenant Phongsakron
Namjit, worked with side-by-side with a U.S. Air Force air mobility
liaison officer, Capt. Michael Spanogle from the 3rd Air Support
Operations Squadron to drop common delivery system bundles and
paratroopers from the back of coalition aircraft in simulated combat
"This was a very unique opportunity for both parties," Spanogle said.
"Just to see how their special forces and combat controllers operate is
helpful. There are a lot of parallels when it comes to passing
nine-lines, radio operations and things of that nature."
While there are vast differences and scopes of responsibility between
not only AMLOs and CCTs, one constant is the ability to be a one-man air
traffic controller in an austere location.
"Whenever there is an air drop, my job is to go out and survey the area,
make sure it's safe for operations, and coordinate with the users,"
Spanogle said. "My job is to go out as a single resource, which is what I
normally do, or, in this case, working with the Royal Thai Air Force to
help train them."
The U.S.-Thai ground team focused on improving radio platform integration and streamlining communication.
"It was good working with the Americans to learn new communication
techniques and procedures," Wongin said. "It was fun. [Spanogle] taught
us a lot. We will use the lessons we learned in the future for improved
While the U.S. AMLO and Thai CCT personnel were working to improve their
craft, 3rd ASOS technicians, took the opportunity to install radio
equipment onboard a Humvee. They were then able to test and demonstrate
the improved voice and digital radio capabilities to the Thais.
According to Tech. Sgt. Mike Whiteman, 3rd ASOS support superintendent,
the capabilities, tactics, techniques and procedures demonstrated to the
RTAF CCT members shows how an improved radio platform can increase
communication with both ground and air resources.
The combined efforts are representative of the learning processes
required from international forces during large operations and continue
to prove how crucial these events are to conducting streamlined
operations for future exercises and real world operations, Whitman said.
In addition to radio communication, Spanogle, Nok and Piglet worked
together to set up point-of-impact markings and landing zone panels to
guide aircraft. They also shared techniques on recording data and how to
best pass that information to an inbound aircraft.
"It's absolutely critical," Spanogle said. "From a flying standpoint,
when integrating with other nations, you see a lot of dynamics and
aspects come together. From the ground sense, it's a very unique
opportunity. Learning how they think and operate is awesome. It teaches
us how to make things more streamlined and safe. That way, if we do go
to combat, those lessons will make us more effective when we integrate."
While the Thai CCT personnel and U.S. AMLO had operational duties to
perform together, the same amount of effort was put into solidifying
their personal relationships.
A common understanding among participants at Red Flag was if you went
near the Thai aircrew area around lunch time, you'd be invited to stay
for food, according to several aircrews.
"Personal relationships are huge," Spanogle said. "That first day you
get to meet someone really sets the tone for how things are going to go.
I have nothing but accolades to sing for them. They were very
professional and kind. They were here for more than to just drop things
out of the back of an airplane. They were here to build a relationship
with our forces."