CHIÈVRES AIR BASE, Belgium - The NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) hosted the first NATO Joint Fires Observer (JFO) Pilot course at the NATO Special Operations School (NSOS) located at Chièvres Air Base, between Sept. 7 - 25, 2020, with six COVID-free residents.
The foundations for this course have been laid since early 2020, with cadre from five Alliance nations working tirelessly to develop innovative Virtual Reality training scenarios and advanced distance learning lesson plans in preparation for the course. “Focusing on adult learning modalities drove development of a flipped classroom, where we emphasise student engagement and active learning”, said a non-commissioned officer on the production team for the JFO course. The historically significant attrition rates within National JFO courses around the globe drove NSOS’s shift in delivery techniques. NATO SOF’s drive to maximise the delivery of highly capable JFOs into the Alliance stems from its desire to expand the capacity of SOF to leverage the spectrum of joint fires that in turn provides NATO with an increase in defence capabilities.
NSHQ is driving the establishment of JFO capability within NATO Special Operations Forces, because Joint Fires Observer provides the smallest unit of manoeuvre with the greatest firepower available. Targeting capability at the sub Special Operations Task Unit level is key for real warfighting capability and for deterrence effects. JFO provides commanders with that capability – a capability that compliments the resource intensive Joint Terminal Attack Controller programme. The JFO programme trains service members to deliver surface to surface, as well as air to surface joint munitions; and importantly, these service members can be trained completely in virtual reality, an aspect of JFO that is appealing in a resource constrained environment.
The NSOS JFO cadre is busy preparing for the next academic year, during which six resident courses will be delivered, as well as four mobile training events. Additionally, the NSHQ staff is preparing to assist in the development of regional training hubs to increase the student throughput of the NATO SOF JFO programme.