First Combat Strike from a Harvest Hawk

11/28/2010 – 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.

Credit photos and text: Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs, FOB Jackson, Afghanistan, November 19th, 2010

  • The first photo shows Sgt. Andrew Rogers, a joint terminal attack controller with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, watches the live video feed from an aircraft in the combat operations center. Rogers is one of the first class of sergeants to become a JTAC and deploy to a combat zone. “I love this job,” said Rogers, a 23-year-old native of Littleton, Colorado. “This is what I have always wanted to do since I joined the Corps.”
  • The second photo shows Sgt. Andrew Rogers, as he talks to a pilot on the radio from a nest where he can see the area surrounding Forward Operating Base Jackson. Sergent Rogers communicates and controls all aircraft that come into India Co.’s battle space and has controlled 29 successful firing missions.

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.

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

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