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Army February 28, 2013
Bringing in the birds
Officers are a crucial
link between air and
land forces, Cpl Max
NEXT time a Hornet is
called to destroy some-
thing at Shoalwater Bay
or a C-17 moves a tank
across the county, it's the Army's
Ground Liaison Officers (GLOs)
who will work behind the scenes
to make it happen.
Working with Air Combat Group,
Surveillance Reconnaissance and
Air Lift Group the GLOs are posted
to 16 Air Land Regt but attached to
RAAF HQs to make Army's requests
for air support run smoothly.
Capt Ben Gallacher, GLO at 81
Wing, acts as a go-between for Army
units and the Air Force when classic
Hornets are requested to bomb tar-
gets called in by soldiers.
"It's not as easy as saying 'hey
can we have some fast air?' We need
to prioritise all the requests, consider
what the RAAF are capable of deliv-
ering and match that to the effect
required," the artillery officer says.
"Then I provide the air command-
er the Army commander's intent and
scheme of manoeuvre so a prioritised
list of air support can be released.
"Army is not the only user of
those assets within Defence. Army
has to compete against Navy and the
RAAF's own flying schedule."
Achieving the right balance
between all parties means detailed
planning and prioritisation, accord-
ing to Capt Gallacher, however the
Air Force is very accommodating
when it comes to mission rehearsal
"But if it's an artillery regiment
that wants to do some shooting
outside of an MRE and drop some
bombs, that takes a bit more negoti-
ating," Capt Gallacher said.
Capt Craig Mann, a transport
officer and GLO with 36 and 33
Sqns at Amberley, has coordinated
moving Abrams tanks, helicopters
and soldiers both domestically and
internationally on the RAAF's C-17
and KC30A aircraft.
"From a GLO's perspective,
Army's understanding of GLOs and
how they go about bidding for air
support is not clearly defined or it is
misunderstood," he says.
"They are unsure on our process-
es and where we fit within the big
picture, in particular strategic air lift.
"The process is a lot simpler than
people think and usually a decision
about platform availability can be
sourced very quickly."
Being attached to RAAF HQs,
GLOs need to be diplomatic when
acting as a go-between for Army
units and the Air Force.
"As a GLO really it all comes
down to interpersonal skills, you've
got to be good at communicating,"
Capt Gallacher says.
"You need to see both sides of
the equation. As in any negotiation
process, if you are unwilling to com-
promise then you run the risk of dis-
GLOs have served with Air Force
HQs since World War II and recently
came under the command of 16 Air
The battery commander of
1 Air Ground Ops Bty, Maj Mark
Mankowski, says GLOs are essential
when arranging for air support for
"It's not good enough to just ask
for a plane to turn up over the bri-
gade area of operations," he says.
"For effective air support the aircrew
need to know what to expect when
they turn up to the battlefield.
"On exercise GLOs are the ones
on the ground making sure a brigade
gets the air support it needs on time
with the right munitions."
All GLOs need to work indepen-
dently from their chain of command
and have situational awareness of all
supported units' requests.
"You rely on the individual mili-
tary appreciation process a lot," Capt
Mann says. "I have to use this pro-
cess every day when I commence
"I have to make sure I cover all
the possibilities, because if some-
thing in the planning process gets
missed, it could mean the difference
between mission failure and suc-
Capt Gallacher was also the
Army liaison officer coordinat-
ing Hawk fighters on Exercises
Predator's Strike and Hamel last
"Integrating fast air with the exer-
cise scenario facilitated more realism
for the training audience," he says.
"It allowed air planners at all lev-
els within the brigade to hone their
"At the end of the day you can
have simulated air support but, in the
thick of the fight, having coordinated
fast air in support really adds to the
training value of the activity.
"Getting the process right is
important; the next time a JTAC
works with air support on operations,
the aircraft arriving on time and on
target could be a matter of life or
For more information on air support and
GLOs go to http://intranet.defence.gov.au/
The link: Ground Liaison Officer Capt Ben Gallacher gets up close
with a Hornet at RAAF Base Williamtown. Inset, embedded with 36
and 33 Sqns, assistant GLO Sgt Anthony Begnell (left) and GLO
Capt Craig Mann help coordinate air lift support.
Photos by LAC Craig Barrett and LACW Jessica de Rouw
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