ROCKHAMPTON, Australia --
Though hidden behind the scenes, the intelligence analysts of the 353rd Special Operations Group and their Australian counterparts paint the big picture of the warfighting scenario for Talisman Saber 2017, a biennial military training exercise from 23 June to 25 July throughout various locations in Australia.
“We are working with our Australian counterparts to do an intelligence based exercise, where operations are driven by the intelligence picture we provide,” said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Justin Smith, 320th Special Tactics Squadron noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of special tactics intelligence. “We are usually in the background behind closed doors so people often don’t realize the impact we have.”
Talisman Saber 2017 provides the relevant training necessary to maintain regional security, peace and stability.
“This is one of the key Australian-led exercises that we participate in,” said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Bryce Jarvis, 1st Special Operations Squadron chief of intelligence. “The scenario development helps hone our skills by being able to produce products and tailor actionable intel for our aircrew and special tactics executing missions in a warfighting environment.”
With more than 33,000 U.S. and Australian personnel participating in Talisman Saber, there is a significant intelligence presence here than in other international exercises.
“Including our partners, we have a total of 40 intel bodies supporting this exercise due to the sheer size of participation and moving pieces,” said Jarvis. “Whether it’s from the air component across the different branches of service to include U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army to all the Australian Defence Force units participating. This is just a larger exercise, so there is far more intelligence associated with that.”
The uniquely complex and challenging multinational environment provides realistic warfighting training for the special operations forces.
“The critical thinking aspects of our job are being tested in a way that we don’t always get to execute in other exercises,” said Jarvis. “For instance, how do we defeat a complex weapon system? We don’t always look at that, so getting back into a warfighting capacity is always good.”
The 353rd SOG will work with the Australian Army’s 6th Aviation and 2nd Commando Regiments, 37th Squadron Royal Australian Air Force, 40th Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force, U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron-85 (HSC-85) and U.S. Marine Corps 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion during Talisman Saber 2017. This military cooperation allows for increased partnership building capacity and interoperability.
“The ability of all of us to get together and partner with each other ensures we are all operating on the same page,” said Jarvis. “It’s been great to see the differences in how we work, whether that’s different briefing styles or products. All of that comes together in the end to fuse and encourage that interoperability we are striving for in this scenario.”
Aside from service components working with the Australian military, the exercise also provides an opportunity for U.S. forces to integrate intelligence systems and share tactics, trainings and procedures with other U.S. services.
“HSC-85 brings to the fight a unique and highly tactical rotary wing platform, with tactical intelligence requirements that other service elements may not have been exposed to,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sean Johnson, HSC-85 tactical intelligence officer. “The sharing of intelligence resources, best practices and product development will greatly enhance future integration as U.S. and coalition forces assist the Combatant Commanders in the shaping of the operational environment.”
The U.S.-Australian alliance remains a model in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
“It’s been phenomenal working with our Australian partners and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Smith. “These guys are great and their capability far surpasses my expectations. I’d like to learn more from them as time goes on and hopefully we can provide the same training base they are providing as well.”