by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer
182nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
10/8/2015 - PEORIA, Ill. -- Battlefield
Airmen with the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron, Illinois Air
National Guard, hosted a ribbon cutting Oct. 5, at the 182nd Airlift
Wing for a combat simulator they helped create.
The Air National Guard Advanced Joint Terminal Attack Controller
Training System allows tactical air control party specialists to
simulate coordinating airstrikes while deployed overseas with ground
The AAJTS will potentially save the government $95 million through
fiscal year 2018 by reducing the cost of qualification training by 48
percent, according to an Air Force analysis.
"While nothing can replace the experience of controlling a live
aircraft, the simulator is a cost-effective alternative," said Maj.
Jason Clifford, 169th Air Support Operations Squadron commander. "What
is most important is that it is a realistic way for TACPs to train and
to maintain proficiency, especially in a time of financial restraint
when resources are not always available."
The AAJTS also provides an enhanced training environment not available in a live training range.
"We can stop and start events so that guys can learn where they failed
or where they did well in their training," Clifford said. "We can pause
the mission, pause the aircraft, give a quick debrief, steer them back
in right direction and have them pick up right where they left off."
Matt Hruska, simulator operator and maintainer for the 169th Air Support
Operations Squadron, said that the end result of incorporating
simulator training will be Airmen equipped to provide close air support
to ground troops when the danger is close.
"I've been that grunt that never had air support, so I've been in
situations where you're getting shot at and you're like 'This is it, I'm
dying,'" Hruska said. "With this, we give hope. Once you hear that
[A-10 Thunderbolt II] come in, it's like 'Yes!' so motivation goes up.
They know that Air Force is watching their backs, and that's the biggest
thing ... just watching that guy's six."
The simulator is comprised of a 270-degree dome projection screen, a
control station and an aircraft simulator station. The dome contains 14
high-end projectors that immerse the user in wartime scenarios. In
addition, it can be networked with other AAJTS simulators, allowing
TACPs and pilots to train together worldwide without leaving their
Members of Congress and the Illinois General Assembly experienced the
simulator firsthand and participated in its ribbon cutting.
State Rep. Michael Unes (R-East Peoria) said he was amazed at the
simulator's realism and its applications to real-world operations.
"I heard about it, but it's one thing to hear about it and it's another
thing to actually see it in action and how real it is from the ground to
the air," Unes said. "It's great that we're able to have this type of
training to bring our guys home safely."
The Peoria TACPs teamed up with the QuantaDyn Corporation in 2012 to
help create the AAJTS by ensuring it reflected the battlefield, from the
sound of gunfire to equipment malfunctions.
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said she was impressed that the concept
originating in Central Illinois has now spread throughout the country
"I've very impressed with that, and I think it shows ingenuity." Bustos
said. "It shows that the folks here are not giving up on making sure
that they're always viable, always moving to the next step, and I'm just
very, very impressed with the whole operation here,"
To date, TACPs with Peoria's 169th Air Support Operations Squadron have
completed 101 combat deployments during which they controlled more than
1,500 aircraft missions. The unit's Airmen have earned 29 Bronze Stars,
69 commendation medals, 26 Combat Action badges and one Purple Heart.