Filming for a series of national commercials wrapped last week here that will feature Tactical Air Control Party, or TACPs, from the 124th Air Support Operations Squadron and other Airmen from the Idaho Air Guard.
The "Battlefield Airmen" advertising campaign will be aimed at recruiting airmen into three highly specialized and demanding combat-related Air Guard career fields: TACP, Pararescue and Combat Control.
The Idaho Air Guard played a key role in the creation of this marketing campaign as a team of directors, producers and highly skilled film professionals from ANG Creative, the National Guard Bureau's in-house production studio, were on location for nearly a week scouting, coordinating and filming the commercial.
Both Idaho and its Airmen were on display: the mountainous desert terrain looks eerily like Afghanistan and the Air Guard's 124th Air Support Operations Squadron calls this area and its awesome training areas home.
"It's a natural fit. (Boise has) both a very strong ASOS and also an A-10 squadron, which is one of the airframes most often associated with close air support missions. It also has the terrain that allows the commercial to be shot in a similar environment to those Battlefield Airmen are engaged in currently," said Col. Mark Auer, commander of the 182nd Air Support Operations Group and chairman of the TACP weapons system council.
Colonel Auer, a key architect of this new marketing campaign, worked closely with the National Guard recruiting service to enlist the expertise of the skilled filmmakers, creative professionals and Air Guard members who make up ANG Creative, led by Senior Master Sgt. Rob Truvia. He also leveraged a close working relationship with Col. J.R. Compton, commander of the Idaho Air Guard's 124th Fighter Wing, with whom he worked on several occasions in the past on the Air Director Field Advisory Council. Colonel Compton knew that Boise, Idaho and the great training ranges nearby, unique blend of close air support assets and first-class airmen would make the ideal filming location to highlight the TACP mission. So when asked, Colonel Compton was more than happy to showcase his state and his unit in a nationwide advertising campaign.
The driving force behind the Battlefield Airmen ads is a shortage of 220 TACPs Air Guard-wide. Colonel Auer cited the following reasons for the shortage: continuing combat operations have created a real need for Battlefield Airmen, especially TACPs; and it takes years for a new TACP to become a fully-qualified member of the TACP community. While the other career fields will be highlighted in the ads with additional filming in other locations, the need is greatest for TACPs, the colonel said.
That is why it is necessary for the Air Guard to reach out through innovative and professional marketing to educate and increase awareness of the Air Guard's dynamic career fields that are attractive to young men who, in the past, have gravitated toward Special Forces, Marines reconnaissance, and other elite military specialties.
"The (incorrect) assumption is that the only people that engage in combat in the Air Force do it from 30,000 feet," Colonel Auer said.
That is, in part, why Colonel Auer invited ANG Creative to Boise -- to highlight the skills and versatility of Air Guard TACPs against the picturesque and rugged backdrop of the area's high desert mountains.
The leader of Idaho's TACP force, Lt. Col. Bill Iuliano, commander of the 124th Air Support Operations Squadron, explains that the primary difference between TACPs and Air Force Special Operations Forces personnel like Pararescue and Combat Control can be summed up in a single word: scope.
Special Forces have highly focused and highly specialized missions that requires special skills and training. The TACP mission is just as versatile and demanding, but much larger in scope. TACPs bring Air Force airpower assets to the Army commanders for all maneuver units from division level down to the company level, Lt. Col. Iuliano said.
"A bomb doesn't get dropped anywhere without one of our guys on the ground," he said.
Those differences, and the different approach to marketing brought by ANG Creative, it is hoped, will result in a great blend of jaw-dropping photography set against the breathtaking views of Southwest Idaho, which will attract highly motivated, highly trainable young men to the Air Guard, Idaho and the TACP community.
Watch out for the Battlefield Airmen ads that will run nationally later this summer on TV, in theaters, print, and online.
To learn more about joining the elite TACP community, click here