MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.-- -- Constant deployments, changes of command and relocation of personnel can cause stress upon a unit working hard to spread its wings. For the Marines of 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), II Marine Expeditionary Force, the tremendous amount of work has paid off.
As little as two years ago, ANGLICO units were a thing of the past. There were artillery regiments, communication battalions and an air support system tailored to the needs of Marines. However, something was missing from what the Marine Corps could contribute to the war effort.
“When we go to war, we don’t go by ourselves,” explained Capt. Robert A. Knauer, firepower control team leader, 2nd ANGLICO. “We go with our allies. We go with the Army and the Navy…our sister services. In order to have a good liaison between all those units, it’s important to have ANGLICO around. It’s why we’re here.”
Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Post, radio technical chief, 2nd ANGLICO, agreed the company is an important asset in the Global War on Terrorism, and the road to recovery after its deactivation in 1999 has been a worthwhile endeavor.
“I started out with nothing, and now my shop has grown enormously,” said Post. “We have lots of stuff coming in compared to a year ago.”
Knauer noted an expansion in manpower that substantially increased the capabilities of the company.
“The unit has doubled in size and has two to three times the equipment it had last year. It’s very healthy right now,” said Knauer.
Having the latest and greatest in equipment is good news to any team headed into the fight, but with this asset comes the responsibility of staying technically and tactically proficient. For Maj. Walter E. Finney of Missoula, Mont., 2nd ANGLICO rear detachment officer in charge, this means his Marines need constant training, formal schools and qualifications to stay at the front of the pack in tactical air support.
“Because of the number of schools we have to go to, as well as the additional training that has to be locked on and coordinated with other units, we need to make sure we hit all the wickets along the way,” said Finney. “We’ve gotten a lot of new technology in the last six months. A lot of people haven’t really used that yet. Basically, it’s a mastery of the various communications systems.”
ANGLICO Marines are the top-notch communicators when it comes to calling in air support, and this means Marines assigned with the unit can attend jump, Survival Evasion Resist Escape and Tactical Air Control Party schools to ensure ANGLICO Marines provide high-speed support wherever needed. A rigorous training schedule ensures units in the field can bring their high-tech communicators with them, regardless of what it takes to get there.
The defining factor that sets ANGLICO apart from an ordinary fire support unit is their ability to direct fire support for coalition forces as well as allied countries. The variances in aircraft, such as fixed and rotary wings, mechanics and lingo make it necessary for ANGLICO Marines to speak a uniform language when telling aviators where to send their punches.
Lance Cpl. Jordan M. Ham, an artillery observer , explained the “nine-line” system of talking to aircraft keeps all involved parties on the same page.
“The nine-lines are a format to get pilots to direct fire where it is needed,” said Ham, “The format tells the aircraft where to start, heading direction, distance and description of the target, where friendly forces are located, and which way to egress.”
“All the coalition forces understand this format when calling in fire. They can plug in the information we give them into coordinates and find their target,” said Lance Cpl. Antonio J. Castillo.
The technicalities of speaking an international language to win wars takes some getting used to, which is why practice exercises are so important.
1st Lt. David P. Snipes, an infantry officer with 14 years of military experience, noted ANGLICO verbiage formalities try to eliminate room for misunderstanding.
“We talk a little different on the radio,” said Snipes, “It’s more natural the more you work at it. It forces you to do it the right way, which is going to cause less confusion. We’re doing everything the way you’re supposed to do it, like giving direction, distances and make sure they know where we are.”
Breaking down air support requests enables ANGLICO Marines to talk to any aircraft, anywhere, and have the aircraft know in no uncertain terms the location of a target. This kind of proficiency is what makes ANGLICO the cream of the crop for calling air support, and they show it with pride.
“I could have gone anywhere,” said Snipes, “I could have sat behind a desk or something else, but I enjoy the tactics we use.”
Knauer expressed enthusiasm for the future of the ANGLICO program.
“It’s a very healthy program,” he said, “Air support is important. With the current conflict in the middle of the desert, it’s not so much naval gunfire, artillery or mortars. It’s in the air, and that’s why it’s very critical.”
Two years ago, most Marines wouldn’t have known much about the unit Post calls “high speed, real fast, and smooth.” Now, ANGLICO is a buzzword in the air support community and unique to the Marine Corps. Commands throughout the Corps are starting to see what Knauer knew a long time ago, “We’re the guys at the tip of the spear controlling air fire.”