Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Georgia Air Guard Teams With Fighting 48th in Afghanistan

Air Force Capt. Roger M. Brooks IV, commander of a 12-man Joint Terminal Attack Controller team, takes coordinates at an Afghan Border Police observation post in the mountains of Achin district in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, Dec. 20, 2009, as a tower guard provides over watch. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tracy J. Smith

By Army Sgt. Tracy J. Smith, Special to American Forces Press Service

NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Georgia Air National Guardsmen assigned to the 165th Air Support Operations Squadron have teamed up with 48th Infantry Brigade soldiers in eastern Afghanistan.

The airmen comprise several Joint Terminal Attack Controller units that will call in combat air support for the 48th's fighters, said 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.

The controllers serve with the advancing infantry, he said, assessing the situation alongside the combat troops and calling in air support if the situation dictates.

Georgia's JTACs are divided into three-man teams spread among four battalions conducting battlefield operations.

Air Force Master Sgt. James F. Harnisch, from Savannah, Ga., is the senior noncommissioned officer on Brooks' team. He has been a support member of the 48th Brigade for nearly six years. He and his fellow airmen have served with the Guard members during various operations.

Harnisch found familiar faces at Forward Operating Base Hughie in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, where the 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment is based. Many of the Georgians previously had served together in Mahmudiyah, Iraq.

"Because of that history, they know what they can expect from us and what we can provide them," Harnisch said.

The JTACs' sense of situational awareness allows them to assist with intelligence gathering and provide 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 in Afghanistan are conducted during unpredictable weather amid formidable terrain. The Georgia airmen and soldiers surmount such difficulties through communication and teamwork.

"The camaraderie is appreciated. With them being from the same state makes them more valuable, because we sort of speak the same language," said Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Warren, who hails from Douglasville, Ga.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Hammond, Georgia Air National Guard commander, is slated to visit with soldiers and airmen in Afghanistan. During recent stateside pre-deployment training exercises he highlighted the need for airmen and soldiers 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."