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Marines with 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve, participate in their final exercise for the Joint Fires Observer primer course at Avon Park Air Force Range in Avon Park, Florida, Aug. 11, 2017. The JFO primer course, the first of its kinda for MARFORRES ANGLICO Marines, focused on giving students pertinent and practical information for when they attend the actual course.

Photo by Cpl. Dallas Johnson

Reserve Marines complete first Joint Fire Observer primer course

14 Aug 2017 | Cpl. Dallas Johnson U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

Marines with 4th Air Naval Ground Liaison Company and 6th ANGLICO, Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve, and 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company, 4th Marine Division, MARFORRES, participated in the first iteration of the Joint Fires Observer primer course at the 4th ANGLICO headquarters in West Palm Beach, Florida, August 7-11, 2017.

The JFO primer course allowed students to receive hands-on training and lessons from current joint terminal attack controllers and joint fires observer Marines.

The joint fires observer is responsible for requesting, controlling and adjusting surface-to-surface fires such as artillery, mortars and naval surface gunfire. They also provide close air support targeting information to a Joint Terminal Attack Controller or a Forward Airborne Controller. The JFO course prepares Marines to direct these fires in conjunction with other services; a capability that is increasingly necessary in the current operational environment. Marine Corps Reserve units, including ANGLICO and Force Reconnaissance units, regularly integrate with other service branches state-side and during exercises, and rotations such as those currently taking place in South Korea, Georgia and Afghanistan.

Ensuring Reserve Marines are highly trained and operational is critical. As the name implies, the primer course aims to set the Marines up for success for when they take the actual JFO course at a later date.

“The purpose of the JFO primer course is to help Marines who are prospective joint fires observers,” said Maj. Graham Perry, the operations officer for 4th ANGLICO. “This will prepare the Marines for when they go through the difficult course. We owe it to our Reserve Marines to get them as prepared as possible for when they go to their schools.”

This is the first time 4th ANGLICO has hosted the course.

“Our JFO course curriculum is modeled after existing JFO primer courses,” said Staff Sgt. Theodore Pernal, the JTAC evaluator for 4th ANGLICO and creator of the course. “We've reached out to multiple schools and discussed what our curriculum will be, we found out what trends and efforts the school house wants us to do, and we replicated exactly that.”

Michelle Muller, a tactical air control party program manager for MARFORRES attended the course as well.

“I'm really excited about this primer course, since it's the first of its kind,” Muller said. “This is the first one that's been put up for MARFORRES Marines, and it serves as a perfect test bed for future classes.”

Leading up to the final exercise, the Marines participated in multiple classroom discussions and simulated exercises via the Deployable Virtual Training Environment; a computer system that teaches Marines how to plot coordinates to find a target and destroy it, all through a virtual simulation.

“As with a lot of the education that's done within the Marine Corps, it's crawl, walk, run,” said Perry. “We start with teaching the basics and fundamentals and then move into a simulator before we go teach the Marines live, practical applications.”

The final exercise took place at Avon Park Air Force Range, three hours north of 4th ANGLICO headquarters. Here, the Marines had the opportunity to call in multiple dry-fire commands to simulate what a real-world scenario would feel like.

“This final exercise was put together to provide a live training event that could increase training value, more-so than what the DVTE simulator could provide,” Pernal said.

As the class concluded, Marines were given the opportunity to speak with Lt. Col. Ronnie Goode, the Inspector-Instructor for 4th ANGLICO, and provide an assessment of the course. Feedback from the Marines that completed this iteration of the course will be used to improve future JFO primer courses.

“The good thing is that the doctrine prepares the Marines to make decisions in a real-world environment,” said Pernal. “Students know their strengths and weaknesses. So, throughout the entire evolution, if a student faces these problems in a real-world operating environment, I'm fully confident that they'll know what to do, and how to do a call-for-fire or support an air strike.”