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NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Georgia Air National Guardsmen assigned to the 165th Air Support Operations Squadron have teamed up with the 48th Infantry Brigade in eastern Afghanistan, to form Joint Terminal Attack Controllers.
These JTACs will be responsible for combat air support for the 48th fighters in the field, and helping “however we can support the war fighters in our [area of operations],” said U.S. Army Capt. Roger Brooks IV, from Marietta, Ga., the commander of the Georgia JTACs.
Brooks describes his team as an “in-case-of-emergency-break-glass” option.
According to Brooks, JTACs are part of the lead advancing infantry, assessing the situation alongside the combat troops and calling in air support if the situation dictates.
Georgia’s JTACs will be divided into three-man teams, fortifying the four battalions conducting battlefield operations throughout the country.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. James F. Harnisch, from Savannah, Ga., is the senior noncommissioned officer on Brooks’ team, assigned to the 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Mountain Warrior.
Harnisch has been a support member of the 48th Brigade for nearly six years. He and his fellow Airmen have trained for deployment and served with the Citizen-Soldiers on various operations.
Harnisch found familiar faces at Forward Operating Base Hughie, in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, where the 1st Sqd., 108th Cav. Reg. is based. Many of the Georgians were assigned to 48th Brigade’s former 108th Armor Regiment in Mahmudiyah, Iraq.
“Because of that history, they know what they can expect from us and what we can provide them,” Harnisch said.
What makes Air Force blue blend seamlessly with Army green in combat scenarios is communication. Being able to ‘read’ the operational tempo on the field maximizes accuracy.
“Information flow can be slow and you could miss your opportunity to have an effect on the battlefield if something was to happen,” Harnisch said. “If we have the right information, we can act properly allowing us to provide a lot more than just close-air support.”
The JTACs’ keen sense of situational awareness allows them to assist with intelligence gathering and give input based on what they call patterns of life observations. These traits are invaluable to the cavalry scouts, who patrol the mountains bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Missions are conducted in spite of unpredictable weather and questionable terrain that could hobble ground evacuation. Georgia’s home-grown JTACs give the mission a welcome layer of contingency planning.
“The camaraderie is appreciated; with them being from the same state makes them more valuable because we sort of speak the same language,” U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Warren, from Douglasville, Ga., Troop A, 1st Sqdn., 108th Cav. Reg. platoon leader said. “But we are all here to do the same job for the same purpose, so it’s good to have fellow airmen from the same state.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Hammond, Georgia Air National Guard commander, will be visiting with Soldiers and Airmen in Afghanistan. During joint training exercises prior to the 48th’s departure he reiterated the need to speak the same language and work in concert.
“There should be no delineation as to uniform or branch of service,” Hammond said. “The primary focus is to make sure the 48th Brigade is successful during this deployment and we will do everything we can to make sure that they are successful.”
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