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Dialogue for calling in an air strike/support

CapnHowdyCapnHowdy Member Posts: 6 ✭✭
edited November 2009 in US Military Veteran Forum
Greetings all:

I am hoping that someone can help me on these forums.

I am writing a screenplay that takes place during the Vietnam war. What I am researching is the proper procedure for calling in air strikes.

Now, I understand that perhaps one cannot reveal the precise means of calling in such support, but I would take a realistic facsimile -- something that sounds real.

Within a squad, who would call in the air support? What would one say? Who would he be speaking to? What would be said if 1) the air strike was on the way, and 2) what would be said if the air strike was denied?

And most importantly, can you give me an example of this dialogue? I just want the dialogue in the script to sound authentic.

Thank you for your help, and thank you for you service to our country.

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    Rocky RaabRocky Raab Member Posts: 14,269 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I can't help you with how ground troops request an airstrike, but I was a Forward Air Controller who directed them.

    When I was assigned to cover a ground sweep and was in radio contact with them, it seldom began as a "request." Usually, I'd hear the frequency (VHF-FM) break squelch and I'd hear a lot of gunfire and blasts in the background, and a voice about three octaves above normal screaming "Hot Contact! Hot ContactWeneedeffingairandweneeditnowOhpoop..." Not exactly formal radio protocol, but I sure knew what was happening!

    Edit to add: on the FAC Association web page is this verbatim account of a troops in contact situation. If you can't figure out all the jargon, I'll help you afterwards. (ps: Dick Joyner was a great FAC, patriot and friend. He is missed.) This tale is what it really was like.

    http://www.cc.gatech.edu/fac/Thomas.Pilsch/AirOps/Herb13.html
    I may be a bit crazy - but I didn't drive myself.
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    cercer Member Posts: 826 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    you can thank the pilots and foward air controlers, for the strikes. but always forgotten is the men who worked their tails off to keep the birds in the air, and the weapons working. busting their butts 16,to 24 hours a day repairing aircraft systems so the pilots would be there for air support. the Officers flew the missions. but for the aircraft maintance men on the ground working, and dodging rockets and mortars,you would never seen an airstrike. E1-E5's were the backbone of the aircraft.
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    Rocky RaabRocky Raab Member Posts: 14,269 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    NEVER forgotten by most if not all the pilots, my good friend. I for one knew exactly who owned that plane, who loaned it to me, and who I had to give it back to.

    One small token of proof is that the current President of the FAC Association is a crew chief.
    I may be a bit crazy - but I didn't drive myself.
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    CapnHowdyCapnHowdy Member Posts: 6 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Rocky Raab:

    Thank you so much for your help -- that web page is exactly the stuff I'm looking for!

    I guess, based on where you've directed me and what you've said, I need resources as to how ground troops "requested" air support. Who did they contact? Then would that person call you, the forward air controller?

    Any books you (or anyone else) can recommend that contains actual transmissions/transcripts from ground troops?

    Again, thank you so much!
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    Rocky RaabRocky Raab Member Posts: 14,269 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    If the FAC is flying support, the contact is direct from the grunts to the FAC, but the FAC then has to talk to the DASC (Direct Air Support Center) or the airborne command post, or possibly through his own Tactical Operations Center to make the request for air. Yeah, it could be complicated.

    The ground guys never controlled what happened; they only called for help. No Army ground personnel could control an airstrike; that was an Air Force-only task. It could be a ground FAC or an airborne one (95% of the time), but never Army. There were Army air controllers, but they could only control Army artillery. Airstrikes were Air Force, period. To make it even more confusing, an AF FAC could control Army artillery, AF jets, VNAF planes and Navy planes, but not Navy gunfire. All three (airstrikes, arty and naval guns) had a distinct and different vocabulary of command words and terms. FACs had to know all three languages, and use them - sometimes simultaneously.

    Confused yet? We had to master ALL that, plus navigate down to the nearest 100 meters on 40-year-old maps, talk on three radios simultaneously, and fly the plane - while being shot at. I STILL can't believe I not only did that but excelled at it. Honestly.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but to get a flavor for this, you really need to read my books and a few others.
    I may be a bit crazy - but I didn't drive myself.
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    CapnHowdyCapnHowdy Member Posts: 6 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Okay, I think I'm getting it -- the RTO in the squad would contact an FAC, who would then contact the actual planes. Is this right?

    I'm then interested in the dialogue between the RTO (ground troops) and the FAC. Do your books have examples of that?
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    Rocky RaabRocky Raab Member Posts: 14,269 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Here's an brief description:

    The ground patrol leader had one radio. When the SHTF, he'd transmit, which might connect him either to an airborne FAC or his own command structure. All he is aware of is that one two-way conversation that he's in trouble. Unknown to him, the world scrambles to provide help. Artillery is alerted, airborne fighters are inventoried and checked as to available fuel, suitable weaponry and target priority. The nearest AF FAC is contacted and directed to the site of the problem.

    Assuming the FAC can contact the ground force (not always a safe assumption), then the process follows basically what you read at the link: find the good guys, find the bad guys, contact the fighters, work up an attack plan and commence kicking butt. On a good day, the bad guys die and the good guys don't. On a bad day... well, that's what the nightmares replay for the next 40 years.

    Sometimes, there is no arty in range, there are no fighters airborne - or they have a higher priority target, or the wrong weapons, or no fuel. The FAC may not be able to find the good guys, some Vietnamese provincial bigwig might deny approval to attack, or some other red-tape snafu delays everything. In those instances, the FAC talks to the ground team while they die. When the ground team no longer answers, it's over. Except for the nightmares.

    Yeah.
    I may be a bit crazy - but I didn't drive myself.
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    Rocky RaabRocky Raab Member Posts: 14,269 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Sorry, this has re=awakened all too many things. I'll get back to you in a bit.
    I may be a bit crazy - but I didn't drive myself.
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    CapnHowdyCapnHowdy Member Posts: 6 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I understand -- you've been extremely helpful.

    Thank you so much for your assistance, it's been very valuable.
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    Rocky RaabRocky Raab Member Posts: 14,269 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Morning.

    I just reviewed your original post and confirmed that you did say this is for a screenplay. That, of course, introduces a kink. I can't allow you to use copyrighted material - either my own or from the FAC website - for your dialogue. Nor can I create it for you if you are going to copyright it.

    I'd be willing to discuss a consulting arrangement, but technical expertise/advise is as far as I can go.
    I may be a bit crazy - but I didn't drive myself.
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    CapnHowdyCapnHowdy Member Posts: 6 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Rocky --

    Absolutely, I would not use your material or the referred material without permission :)
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    Rocky RaabRocky Raab Member Posts: 14,269 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Didn't think so - no pro writer would. Happy to help.
    I may be a bit crazy - but I didn't drive myself.
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    johnhardyjohnhardy Member Posts: 11 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Hey y'all
    I was a RTO for a forward observer,and became a recon sgt,and done basically the same job as a FO.I was in BtryA 1/77Arty 1ACD and assigned with A2/5Cav andD2/5Cav.I could probably get together with the former FAC and we could come up with how a request for TACAIR
    usually went.I used TACAIR quiet a few times and can pretty well remember how it went.I'd usually call FDC(fire direction control)and tell them what was needed and they'd contact Airforce or Navy and then the FAC would contact me advise as to ETA,weapons,time on station .etc.After I acknoleged that and he'd request that I pop smoke and give direction and distance to the target..After the Jet Drivers expended their munitions we'd usually thank one another and they'd be gone.I never talked directly with the JetDrivers,always with the FAC.I also "shot" the Missouri and RAN Hobart and very possibly others..I wouldn't mind helping some one intending to to an honest depiction of Our War but will not help anyone who in any way
    attempts to denigrate an American Serviceman...
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    swampratswamprat Member Posts: 12 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    We RTOs in my Co.C 1st of35 3rd brg 4th ID,took turns listening for air traffic,and would help jets at times of cofusion.I was on call when two jets were luping us with jelly canisters. They called for smoke I poped purple at the same time acrossed the mountian we saw yellow smoke(raido traffic intercept).As the first piolot was comming out of his lupe (Green machine I see two smokes identify in a code I"ll understand)I had truble getting thru to him(mike jam) as we were toast in 10seconds.All I could think of was--Were Jimmy We"re Jimmy you copy,
    3seconds of forever(I copy Purple Haze going after the the Yellow Dog).Needlis to say the next chopper brought new channel codes.PS the Army teaches us the RTO get hit first,That is true,I know.
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