By Reggie Jarrett
Jax Air News Editor
Last week, all flight operations for the P-8A Poseidon and the P-3C Orion aircraft from Naval Air Station Jacksonville were handled out of a cluster of tents during a Mobile Tactical Operations Center (MTOC) exercise July 24-26. The event was a joint exercise for MTOC units Three and Seven.
"MTOCs are units that are forward-deployed with their corresponding flight squadron," said CWO4 James Hawkins, who coordinated the exercise. "It is an extension of the Tactical Operations Center (TOC), which is the main site. There are multiple TOC sites around the world. The mobile units are the ones that are deployed to wherever the aircraft need to go to do whatever mission they need to do."
"They handle anything from briefings to data collection to flight following, which is keeping in contact with the planes," Hawkins said. "They also do post-mission products, which are the results of the mission. This is put out to the fleet to let them know how successful the mission was or if there were any issues."
The exercise or Operational Readiness Evaluation (ORE) is designed to mimic being deployed.
"We conduct exercises for the two MTOCs about to deploy to get them ready for that deployment," Hawkins said. "The squadrons work with us because our job is to support them. We are married up to the squadrons and when they go out the door, the MTOC associated with that particular squadron goes out with it."
MTOC-Three supports Patrol Squadron (VP) 5 and MTOC-Seven is associated with VP-8.
The ORE evaluated both units together to save time and money.
MTOCs consist of four connected main tents, each about 28-feet by 12-feet. The first tent houses the technicians and most of the gear. "It is the brains of the operation," Hawkins said.
The next tent is the watch floor, or operation's control. It is where the watch officers monitor missions and create specific mission briefs on site.
Adjacent to the watch floor is the briefing tent, where air crews are briefed on their upcoming missions. The fourth tent is a general area where people take breaks and relax.
There is no external power source for the MTOC. Power for all the computers, communications equipment and environmental control units comes from four 30,000-watt generators. All of the tents, computers, radar dishes, communication equipment and generators must be set up within 96 hours.
Lots of coordination and planning goes into these exercises including preparing the site and getting proper documentation. It also includes setting up funding for fuel, trash, dumpsters, port-o-lets and dig permits.
"I ensure everything is ready to go as soon as they get here," said Hawkins.
The MOTC handled about six or seven flights per day during the exercise.
"The TOC is not in operation during the MTOC exercise," Hawkins said. "Everything happens out of these tents. It is 24/7 operation."
The exercise is set up to mimic deployment as closely as possible.
"We try to tailor the exercise to the operational-type flights they would see in the area of responsibility where they are going," Hawkins said. "To prepare them for what they might see. They train the way they are going to fight."