News: Marine sergeant controls close air support
Story by Cpl. Ned Johnson
FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Afghanistan – His job is usually reserved for officers, but in his first combat deployment as a joint terminal attack controller, one Marine has accomplished something no one else has ever done—officer or enlisted.
Sgt. Andrew Rogers, a JTAC with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment controlled the fire of a hellfire missile from a KC-130J “Harvest Hawk” during combat operations.
Near sundown on Nov. 4, a squad of India Company Marines came under attack from an Afghan compound. A Marine in a nearby post provided suppression fire from the .50 caliber machine gun mounted there.
As the fight continued, Rogers began talking to the pilot of a KC-130J for close air support. The crew located the building the insurgents were firing from and could see bullet impacts from the Marines firing as well.
The next thing that happened made history. Rogers went through all the necessary requirements to approve a missile fire and then gave his favorite command to the crew ‘cleared hot.’
“It hit the target perfectly, but mostly I was relieved because the firing stopped,” said Rogers, a 23-year-old native of Littleton, Colo.
That is exactly what Rogers said is important to him—the safety of the Marines.
“It’s my job to provide them support and the best part about that is being able to kill the enemy and stop the firing,” Rogers said. “I want all our Marines to go home safely.”
This isn’t Rogers’ first deployment, he deployed twice to Iraq with 2nd Anglico Battalion, but this is his first time controlling close air support in a combat zone.
“It’s definitely different here,” Rogers said. “There are so many more maneuver elements and when we train we never fire missiles with friendly troops so close.”
Rogers was trained as a JTAC in March and deployed in October, but he is performing above his peers said Capt. Matt Pasqali, the battalion air officer for 3rd Bn., 5th Marines.
“He has done a great job out here,” said Pasqali, a 31-year-old native of Houston, Texas. “He has done more work than any other JTAC and he has done it very well.”
There is significance in being the first to fire an existing weapon with an aircraft not normally used for combat.
“This program has been planned for a while and when we used it, the weapon was very effective,” said Pasqali, a graduate of the University of Texas. “It helped build everyone’s confidence in the system.”
Because it worked so well, Pasqali also said that the battalion will continue to request air support from the KC-130J.
Rogers has become a familiar name in the Afghanistan air community as pilots and JTACs alike discuss the historic event, but Rogers is just living his dream.
“I love this job,” said Rogers. “This is what I have always wanted to do since I joined the Corps.”
Now just months after volunteering for the new job and knowing he would deploy immediately after, Rogers has controlled 29 ‘cleared hot’ firing missions. Rogers is humble about his newfound fame, but says he is proud to continue doing his job for the Marines of India Company.