Michael's Dispatches

JTAC: Joint Terminal Attack Controller



17 August 2011

4-4Cav in Combat
Operation Flintlock

We made it off the helicopter landing zone with no fighting. The enemy was not afraid of us, but they must have been taken by surprise.

Two Air Force JTACs were along for the mission, as they nearly always are in deliberate attacks that might involve air power.  In short, the JTACs are skilled technicians who often see significant amounts of combat because many JTACs stay busy bouncing around from unit to unit, from one combat operation to the next.  And so rest assured, if the nightly news is reporting about a serious Army operation, JTACs probably were there.


After landing by CH-47 at 0300, we moved to the compound we would occupy and operate from for the next two days.  The JTACs pored over the maps and into the radios.


Several 4-4Cav Soldiers took machine guns and a sniper rifle to the mud roof, and soon the JTACs crawled up to control the air fight.  Despite having been at war here for almost ten years, we still have a shortage of simple ladders.  And so 4-4Cav isn’t wasting time with paperwork requests; they’re making ladders in the motorpool from parts of vehicles that were damaged or destroyed in combat.  The ladder for this roof was about two rungs short of optimal, and so over the next two days I was convinced someone was going to plummet to the ground and need MEDEVAC.  When troops get shot on the roofs, it can be a challenge to get them down and that is especially so during firefights.


Over the next two days, three of our people would be shot on rooftops nearby.  Two were shot in the face, and one in the right side-SAPI plate in his body armor.  The first Soldier shot in the face has survived, while the second died on the roof, or shortly after he was lowered.  And so, though our people must occupy the rooftops, they are dangerous places.  In this sort of combat, if you can see the enemy, the enemy can see you.  If you can shoot the enemy, the enemy can shoot you, and there is no good in going out there unless you plan to see and shoot the enemy.  4-4Cav did not come bearing kisses and lollipops, and the JTACs were not there to deliver humanitarian aid.


The troops unfolded a bright, orange VS-17 panel.  This would allow the aircraft to see us and avoid an accident.  Though the current pilots knew our locations, other helicopters and aircraft would come and go over the next two days, and so the JTACs had to keep updating the situation.


Morning of the first day.  The enemy has not yet responded to the incursion.


JTACs watching.


The JTACs kept plotting whatever it is that JTACS plot, which probably revolved around likely enemy fighting positions, friendly troop dispositions, and civilians to avoid in the event of airstrikes.  Our people don’t wait for dramas to unfold to start figuring out the playing field.  They make detailed maps with TRPs (target reference points), dead space, and just about anything else you can think of in order to bring fast and accurate fire.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Leyla Najma · 8 years ago
    The last photo I would have to say.......is my favorite!!


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    Travis · 8 years ago
    Nice work as always Michael! Keep it up, and God bless you and the troops around you!
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    Ken Hill · 8 years ago
    Very nice work. These guys deserve all the attention, they are saving many many sons and husbands. Great pictures and thanks for your service as well Michael.
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    Kristoffer Young · 8 years ago
    Great article - great pictures !

    I'm just back from serving a tour in Helmand so all I'' say is - Keep up the good work and Stay Safe !
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    Frank Sweetin · 8 years ago
    I'm a newcomer. your pictures and commentary are rewarding and compelling. What is it like to walk in the canyon of heroes with the heroes? God Bless!
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    Jim Rotramel · 8 years ago
    The VF-32 Tomcatters F/A-18E Super Hornet is from Air Wing 8 (CVW-8) on the George H. W. Bush (CVN-77). It's armed with one Laser Guided Bomb and one JDAM.
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    Shawn Stanford · 8 years ago
    "The troops unfolded a bright, orange VS-17 panel. This would allow the aircraft to see us and avoid an accident."

    LOLz: not so much. As we found out toward the end of our deployment (I was a GLO on BAF), aircrews don't understand or really see VS-17 panels. Their pods only show black-and-white images!
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    Brett · 8 years ago
    I am blown away by your articles and photos! In particular the KW shots...my son is a Kiowa Driver in your AO! I see those shots and always wonder if it is him! Your work is amazing...my son turned me on to your site...glad he did!
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    Bayonet 40 · 8 years ago
    To broaden the GLO's (ground liason officer) knowledge - A slight clarification - a VS17 panel is NOT just for fast movers (fixed wing A/C) Rotary wing A/C and even the A-10 r/t lower and slower tactics CAN see the VS17 and utlize it allowing them a refrence point to avoid fracture side incidents. JTACs do not use the VS17 as refrence for pilots to look thru their POD rather for looking out the window.
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    peter · 8 years ago
    Michael, thank you for this first hand account!
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    Charles · 8 years ago
    that first full spectrum shot is amazing, it's like the shots i would see of deep space in my astronomy 101 class. all the different colors of stars and galaxies.
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    Matt · 8 years ago
    You're clearly mistaken and do not have as much insight as you think. VS-17 Panels have two sides. One of which that can be seen via IR and one with the naked eye. All pods can see colors. Goes to show that the quality of GLOs hasn't changed since i retired from service.
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    Mike · 8 years ago
    As you can see, they were working extensively with a Pink team (SCAT team, whatever you wanna call it) in which the Kiowa uses no optics during the day. Any resupply aircraft coming in during the daytime (Blackhawk/Chinook) would find the VS panel most useful as well.

    Rotory-wing and Fixed-wing worlds are incredibly different yet both very important.
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    Tony Bobsin · 8 years ago
    Thank you for your great photographs and down to earth stories about what our troops are doing. Because of them, I remain free. Keep up the great work!
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    Frank Morse · 8 years ago
    Great pictures, as usual Michael. Joint Forces has never been as integrated as it is today, as your pictures clearly show.
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    Gary · 8 years ago
    My Son is the JTAC with the torn pants, glad to see he still has his sense of humor. Thanks for the great pictures, and thanks to all that serve.
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    Eric · 8 years ago
    Thanks for the story. It is nice when attempts at publicity get it right. That is rare, and you were pretty much spot on. Good stuff.
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    Mel · 8 years ago
    The JTACs are my boys from back home. JTAC Dad, it is an honor to serve with your son.
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    Jaz · 8 years ago
    I am the Pentagon representative for all JTACs/TACPs. Thank you for the excellent presentation on what our JTACs do, day in and day out, without complaint and without fan fare. They never cease to amaze me with their courage and dedication. I am proud to be among their few numbers and proud to serve with these unsung heroes.
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    John-Capt in ANG · 8 years ago
    Since most of the AF guys I see in PT gear back behind the wire make me wince, it's great to hear stories like these about the JTACs. It's a tough career field from what I learned as a junior enlisted, active duty AF guy looking to cross train in the mid 90s, but very rewarding.

    I have noticed the uniforms issued for deployments are garbage, at least for AF and Army. If guys/gals are wearing them out sitting all day behind the wire (eg at IJC or HQ) I imagine they don't hold up too long outside (the razorwire).
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    Heezey · 8 years ago
    I believe you were referring to the term "fratricide" not "fracture side incidents!?
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    Bayonet 40 · 8 years ago
    Yes that is correct, my Apollogies for the error
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    Chris G · 8 years ago
    Awesome article and photos...I was a JTAC back in the day, (OEF 2003) in Oruzgon province for a 10 month rotation. It's great to see this coverage of these exceptional and often forgotten airmen.
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    MG · 8 years ago
    Back in the day? Man, I guess it is almost 10 yrs
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    MAUREEN · 8 years ago
    Michael, when do you sleep? Take care of yourself. PLEASE be safe.
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    Clarissa · 8 years ago
    :cry:: :cry:: :cry:: Thanks Michael.it is great to see or men.they sure tug atmy heart.it has been along10yr for what.im74yr old and have alot of grandchildren over there.the sky is beautiful.tohave so much troble under Gods world.take it safe and know a lot of prayers are being for all of youall.
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    kyles mom · 8 years ago
    Thank you again for these accounts!!! I pray to God that the 'ghost' of the soldier standing over the antenna is not a 'ghost' for many many many years!!! Tell him his mother is extremely proud of him!!! I pray for all of you to return home safely to your families!!! ps.....he has some good ghost stories to tell though!!!! :-)
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    Heezey · 8 years ago
    Chris G... would you possibly be the Chris G that was at the 1st ASOS many years ago?
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    Danette · 8 years ago
    My son is PFC Brandon Longshore...the soldier carrying the young boy...thank you for sharing the pictures...your awesome
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    Freak · 8 years ago
    Chris G? Could only be. Great article(s) and photos as well.
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    Jen · 8 years ago
    Not all pods can see color:-) The GLO's right! The pointy nose, high flying people have a hard time seeing VS-17 panels; I know because I have about 750 combat hours in one of those jets.
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      Geoff · 8 years ago
      Why does he need new pants? He just got the air conditioning installed on those. ;-)
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    Bobcattf5 · 7 years ago
    :lol: When your there, you want to be home, when your home you want to be there!! :sigh:
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    bobcat · 7 years ago
    :lol: when you are there you want to be home, when your home you want to be there :sigh:
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    Linda · 4 years ago
    Just found you, Thanks SO MUCH for the work you do here. I'm a proud mom of a JTAC and a KIOWA pilot. My boys both did 2 tours in Afghanistan. One left the same day the other one got there. Wonder who is flying the birds in these pics :). THANKS!!

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