<XMP><BODY></xmp> Joint Universal Spotter

        The following article is reproduced with the kind prermission of Carlton Meyer. Visit his website for the full article and his on-line book on related aspects of Future Warfare.

Joint Universal Spotters

        A major weakness in the US military is coordinating fire support. Each service has different training, equipment, procedures, and techniques. In addition, no service has true fire support experts, just experts in specific fields like naval gunfire, close air support, artillery, and mortars. This is a problem for military forces worldwide, and has been written about by many people:

Major E. E. Shoults' 1993 article: Let's All Get On Board With CAS

A 2002 article in the Marine Corps Gazette: A Revolution in Company Fire Support.

March 30, 2003 article in Aviation Week Not So Fast; Battle Of Baghdad Delayed

May 2003 GAO Report: Issues Hamper Air Support of Ground Forces (pdf)

        The solution is a Joint Fire Support Command to establish doctrine, standard procedures, and standard equipment. It will also run a school for all four armed services which trains a Joint Universal Spotter (JUS) to replace the multitude of forward observers and air controllers. A six-month basic spotter's course for E-2s will produce experts in map reading, GPS systems, radio systems, naval gunfire, artillery spotting, mortar spotting, and close air support. The school will also offer a three-month advanced "Chiefs" course for career servicemen at the grade of E-6. This course will also teach the neglected aspect of munitions costs and inventory management. For example, there is no need to waste a million-dollar Tomahawk missile on a bunker when a Navy 5-inch gun can destroy it. And if you only have 200 MLRS loads in theater, you don't waste them on non-critical targets.

     In the Air Force, young JUS graduates will begin as terminal attack controllers, then move up to planning cells. In the Army and Marines, they will begin as platoon spotters, relieving Lieutenants who are too busy to serve as an under-trained spotter whenever the correct forward observer or air controller is not in place. The platoon JUS will also provide a second radio link and serve as the platoon guide (e.g. navigators). This is an addition to current units, but one that has been overdue for years.  A JUS will advance in grade up to the company staff, battalion staff, and onward. Much of this technical work is now done by officers with limited formal training. In the Navy, a JUS career will begin with a SEAL team or on cruisers and destroyers coordinating naval gunfire, and move up to carriers where they plan air support, then upward to Fleet staffs.

        Ideally, every new Air Force JUS will serve as an Army platoon spotter first, and every new Navy JUS as a Marine platoon spotter, to gain broad experience at the cutting edge. A typical army company will have three platoon JUSs (E-3 thru E-5s); often one airmen and two soldiers.  An experienced (E-6) company-level JUS sergeant and his (E-5) assistant JUS will ensure the young platoon JUSs can do their critical job. This "ground tour" for young airmen will eventually provide USAF squadrons and headquaters with people who understand what's happening on the battlefield. Ground tours with marines will also provide the Navy with knowledgeable JUS sailors. At the battalion level, an E-8 JUS with two E-7 assistants can ensure expert fire support coordination 24-hours a day. They will replace semi-trained officers with limited experience while freeing expensively trained pilots for flight duty. Others have proposed centralizing JUS teams at the battalion level, which is an issue for the new Joint Fire Support Command to decide.

     It is important to award each JUS graduate a badge which they wear on any uniform, like a bursting bomb. This is good for esprit, and will provide instant respect at headquarters when officers argue that their "community" should be given a mission. Seniors officers will spot senior enlisted men with their bursting bomb badge and ask them for input, knowing that man has the training and experience to know what weapons system is best suited. There is always friction in joint commands as officers advocate use of their resources since many do not understand the full range of weaponry available. Senior enlisted JUSs can resolve disputes and work together to employ the best weaponry suited for each task. These enlisted experts will also serve in joint training centers and career schools to ensure the proper joint doctrine is taught and understood. The Navy and Marines can also use E-7 JUSs to ride in the backseat of F/A-18D/Fs to coordinate air support. They can also play key roles aboard USAF AWACS, Navy Hawkeyes, and command helicopters.

        An officer JUS class can be established if any service wishes to establish a JUS career path, however, the need for a JUS career field for enlisted is undeniable. This may seem like a logical and simple task, yet disputes will immediately emerge as no service likes to be told to change or give up authority to establish its own procedures or procure its own communications equipment. These may seem like petty issues, but it will require some high-level arm twisting to standardize fire support coordination.  It will be several years before JUS graduates advance in grade and appear in higher level headquarters. When they arrive, there will be a sudden improvement in fire support coordination as officers realize that competent experts have finally arrived with the broad training and experience needed to fight modern wars.

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