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Ebb and Flow: Maintaining the Close Air Support Relationship through History

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2015,01 May 2016

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Military historians have thoroughly documented the longstanding debate between American airmen and ground forces over Close Air Support CAS. Discord between services, particularly during inter-war periods, has repeatedly resulted in poor CAS preparation and therefore poor performance in the early stages of Americas conflicts. Measuring this CAS relationship both before and through conflict in terms of doctrine, training, and personal relationships reveals an additional trend. During World War II, the Korean War, and Operation Enduring Freedom, personal relationships improved and shared objectives emerged as a result of daily interaction between airmen and ground forces. The changes enabled those involved to rebuild the CAS relationship and improve performance in the later years of these conflicts. Regrettably, subsequent declines in the CAS relationship during interwar periods have created a consistent cycle of ineffectiveness and inefficiency. Both services must break this cycle of ebb and flow so that the US military arrives at its next conflict with a properly maintained CAS relationship. CAS performance is inextricably linked to integration, making relationships the essential foundation of combat results. Restoring the CAS relationship can be as simple as airmen and ground forces occupying the same mess tent, in training as well as in combat.

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