EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
The real-world integration of the four military services is a critical component to success. The Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team is the focal point for making that happen at the "Soldiers boots-on-the ground, Airmen seats-in-seats and Sailors' haze-grey-and-underway" tactical level.
In February 2005, JFIIT emerged from two deactivated Eglin tenant commands, the Joint Combat Identification Evaluation Team and the Joint Close Air Support Joint Test and Evaluation Team. At that time, Col. David Brown, JFIIT's first commander, said the organization "will be a collaborative and interactive organization that will be the focal point for other command activities in the joint fires mission area."
In July 2006, U.S. Marine Corps Col. L. Ross Roberts took command of the U.S. Joint Forces Command unit which assesses current joint fires capabilities and develops recommendations to improve their conduct. The team manages the projects and tasks that are related to joint fires and command, control, computers, communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or C4ISR.
According to Navy Cmdr. Shannon Coulter, C4ISR division chief, JFIIT's mission is to assess the integration, interoperability and effectiveness of joint fires, focused at the tactical level. Joint fires are defined as "the use of weapon systems by two or more components in coordinated action to produce a specific lethal or non-lethal effect."
In simple terms, it is different services and or component commands like air, ground, maritime and special operations, that try to achieve a common objective by working together.
"For example, an Army convoy rolling along a main supply route may be supported by Navy or Air Force aircraft whose job it is to provide that convoy with both intelligence and additional firepower, as required," Commander Coulter said. "Basically, the commander in charge of the air is supporting the commander in charge of the ground."
The team is made up of approximately 120 personnel, 40 military and 80 civilian contractors. All bring a broad range of experience to the team. The military are from all four services and cover a wide range of disciplines including terminal air controllers, pilots, weapons-systems operators, infantrymen, intelligence, armor and artillery. Their expertise is critical because of the broad definition of joint fires.
"Any weapon can be combined with another services mission or request for support," Commander Coulter said. "We need to be able to cross those lines and speak conversantly in the air, ground and sea worlds."
JFIIT takes a holistic approach to joint fires, emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts. They recommend solutions that enhance the three tenants of joint fires: effective target acquisition; effective command and control and interoperable firing systems.
These solutions come from adjustments to training, tactics, techniques and procedures and equipment. Taken together, these solutions provide the joint force with an enhanced capability to employ fires in an accurate and timely manner. As an added benefit, effective joint fires naturally reduce fratricide and collateral damage by ensuring that the right effect is produced on the right target at the right time.
Commander Coulter said historically the services have acquired equipment and trained independently, which led to redundancy, a duplication of assets and non-interoperability even though they have always been expected to fight jointly. Since the term "joint fires" applies to a broad range of weapons and missions, JFIIT has scoped its efforts to focus on ISR support to maneuver units such as Army armor battalions, carrier strike groups, and Marine infantry companies, and joint air-to-ground fires integration, with maneuver units.
"When you try to put those command and control platforms in the battlefield together, they don't all talk well together," Commander Coulter said. "What we find today is that we operate jointly, but we train independently."
Commander Coulter acknowledged that while the joint force has improved in many areas in the past few years, there is still a long way to go to be truly joint and, ultimately, provide transparent command and control to the Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine in the field.
JFIIT tasks and request for support can come from their headquarters in Virginia at U.S. Joint Forces Command or from operators currently deployed in the field.
The JFIIT team hones their skills by supporting multiple joint exercises around the globe. They recently provided assessment and training feedback for two operational threads, joint theater air and missile defense and joint targeting at Terminal Fury. Terminal Fury is a U.S. Pacific Command command-post exercise where the PACOM commander trains his staff and subordinate commands to respond to any potential crises in that area of the world.
"We were able to watch the pieces interact," Commander Coulter said. "Our team enhanced the exercise by bringing in simulators at a tactical level which has never been done before."
Commander Coulter said in the past commanders sometimes "white carded," or played on paper, certain elements of the exercise which did not realistically demonstrate what could happen on a battlefield.
"When you bring a real person into the mix, it brings a human element which you'll have to deal with in the real world," the commander said.
Among other things, the team is currently gearing up for Exercise Bold Quest, which will assess the military utility of the designated non-cooperative target and combat identification capabilities.
When they are not deployed in support of various exercises, personnel also write doctrine and exercise scenarios, provide feedback on current capabilities and support training on selected joint fires issues including leadership training at the Army's National Training Center.
"Current and future joint forces must leverage a multi-dimensional skill set that enables them to think and act jointly," Commander Coulter said. "JFIIT provides the framework and mental energy to help achieve that end."