I remember my first time in Baghdad, Iraq. I walked into the tactical operations center (TOC) and oriented myself with the room. Several computers sat static atop desks, maps covered the wall, and dry erase boards provided details about upcoming operations. Above the dry erase board hung a rope with fabric. The attached fabric was a makeshift blind to conceal the boards information when unwarranted visitors knocked on the door. I had seen and set up numerous TOCs before in the Marines and at CIA stations. Baghdad was different.
I walked over to one of the maps and observed a colorful array of push pins in Baghdad proper. Each color had a different meaning. These pins marked incidents; mostly improvised explosive devices planted by insurgents. I turned to my teammate who was showing me around and asked, “do these indicate the past months incidents?” Heads in the TOC turned and looked at me like I was from a different planet. My teammate laughed and explained how the push pins annotated IEDs and ambushes from that week.
The TOC is the membrane and central hub for all operations. Troop movements are tracked, flight times and supply drops annotated, and intelligence reports are detailed here. The video below shows Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron 1 as they conduct a training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, on June 22, 2016. The purpose of this event is to promote the qualification of the Marines in their use of tactical air operations center.
Image courtesy of blog.thenewstribune.com
This article previously published on SOFREP 07.24.2016