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JTAC Airman vital in war on terrorism


Release Date: 4/5/2004

by Master Sgt. Jeff Szczechowski 455th Expeditionary Operations Group Public Affairs

4/5/2004 - BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AFPN) -- "Dad, you're still at work?" are the words of Staff Sgt. Jason Cry's 5-year-old son. When Sergeant Cry talks with his son on the phone, he helps the boy understand why Dad was not there for Christmas, or why he cannot be there at night to read him a bedtime story, kiss him on the head and tuck him into bed.

He told his son the Air Force needs him to do some important work, so he cannot be home with him right now. But he told his son when his work is through, it will be a nice reunion.

Sergeant Cry is a joint tactical air controller with the 682nd Air Support Operations Squadron supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. During a recent ground confrontation, he demonstrated the importance of all JTACs to the war on terrorism.

In the early morning of March 18, in the village of Miam Do, coalition and Afghan national army soldiers came under fire of anti-coalition militia. Sergeant Cry was the JTAC assigned to the Army ground forces, and for the next 34 hours, he was responsible for coordinating close-air support for the embattled coalition forces.

"We're the link between the Army and the Air Force when the need arises for close-air support," Sergeant Cry said. "Without us, there is no (close-air support), only firefights."

In Miam Do, Sergeant Cry unloaded 60 to 100 pounds of gear including radio, batteries, and enough food and water to get by for several days.

When the situation intensified at around 6:30 a.m., the commander determined that close-air support was needed and he called on Sergeant Cry to swing into action.

When Sergeant Cry made his first radio request back to the air support operations center here, his responsibility was enormous.

He had to decide what actions to take to properly control the ensuing air operations and how best to maximize the support, what type of weapons to use, and where to direct the hits. Anticipating what type of aircraft would be used, and how best to use each one, is part of the entire thought process, he said.

Sergeant Cry also needed to analyze how close any friendly forces were in relation to the positions to be targeted. With the incredible amount of firepower, a miscalculation could lead to a terrible mistake.

Because lives are dependent on how the controller performs, he said this is a job that might not appeal to too many people.

"It's not for everyone," Sergeant Cry said. "You have a lot of lives depending on you -- ones that you can take out and ones that you have to protect."

Sergeant Cry said an interesting part of the recent combat experience is the variety of aircraft available to him.

For this operation, he had four A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, four AH-64 Apaches, an AC-130 gunship and to his surprise, a B-1B Lancer.

In this situation, more aircraft can be good, but it also means that the decision-making process becomes that much more challenging, he said.

"Everything happens fast when you're out there; there's not much time to think, so your mind is always racing," Sergeant Cry said.

During the second stage of the battle, his battalion commander requested support from the AC-130, and Sergeant Cry brought it in. After making sure that no coalition forces were in the line-of-fire, he had it let loose with its 105 mm cannon, 26 potent rounds in all.

Next, the B-1B moved in, dropping three, 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions right on target. But when enemy gunfire persisted, Sergeant Cry turned again to the 354th EFS, leaving it to two A-10 fighter pilots to deliver the decisive blows.

The lead fighter attacked with two, 500-pound MK-82 bombs. Sergeant Cry summed up the results: "Man, was she accurate!" Her wingman followed, dropping both of his MK-84s "right on point." They then followed up with two 30 mm cannon passes.

In a battle that ultimately cost the lives of two U.S. Soldiers and one Afghan soldier, coalition forces killed five anti-coalition militia. They uncovered Taliban propaganda, about 1 ton of ammunition, and weapons including rockets, mines, machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers.

With "bombs on target," which Sergeant Cry listed as the most rewarding part of his job, and the battle over, he demonstrated how his mission helps the war on terrorism.

More importantly to his son; his dad is almost done with his four-month working day.

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