The Airborne Ranger

Special Operations Soldier

Jim was a sergeant in the US Army for nearly 10 years. He was an Airborne Ranger assigned to the 1st Ranger Battalion which is part of the US Army Special Operation Command. He graduated from some of the military's most challenging schools including the Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP), Airborne School, Air Assault School, S.E.R.E. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), Air Force Close Air Support School, Naval Gunfire School, Combat Lifesaver School and more. Jim’s primary job was as a Forward Observer with a Military Occupational Specialty code of 13F (Foxtrot).

Forward Observers carry the (MOS) designation of 13 Foxtrot (13F) in the U.S. Army. They are commonly referred to as "Forward Observers". The Forward Observer is a soldier responsible for directing artillery fire and close air support (ground attack by aircraft) and Naval gunfire onto enemy positions. The Forward observer serves as the eyes on the battle field, calling in target locations and adjustments to the Fire Direction Center (FDC) via radio , satellite radio or (less commonly) landline. The Forward Observer is qualified to attend many military schools because of their Combat Arms designation such as, Airborne, Air Assault, Ranger, and Special Forces training.

The position of the Forward Observer is considered one of the most dangerous and challenging positions on the battlefield . Forward Observers are highly skilled and usually exceptionally intelligent. They are also able to work silently for long periods of time, as some missions may range from a few hours to several weeks and even months. They can operate with minimal support located behind enemy lines.

Their skills in reconnaissance must be met with similarly high intelligence and ability to think quickly in situations of extreme stress. Their physical demands are extremely high as the Forward Observer  must survive and fight alongside paratroopers, airmobile infantry, light infantry, mechanized infantry, United States Marines and United States Army Rangers while typically carrying a much greater equipment load (radios, secure communication equipment, laser target designators, etc.)

Their missions are always critical as mental errors under stress can bring the massive firepower and ordnance they control down on friendly forces as well as enemy. Forward observers are considered high-priority targets by enemy forces, as they control a great amount of firepower, are within visual range of the enemy, and are often located deep within enemy territory. The Forward observer must therefore be skilled not only in fire direction, but also in stealth and direct combat.

Contact Jim Slaton