The JTAC Imperative

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By Carlo Muòoz

At first glance, SrA. Zach Sherwood looked like a typical soldier on patrol in Gurbuz, Afghanistan. Clad in standard Army fatigues with an M-4 slung over his body armour, Sherwood moved in formation with the squad of Army scouts as the unit made its way toward the home of a suspected Taliban facilitator, located in this bustling district in the country’s eastern half.

As the scouts from 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, and units from the local Afghan police moved into position for the predawn raid, Sherwood took his post alongside them, helping secure the perimeter around a mud-brick compound. It wasn’t until the suspect was already in custody and the platoon moved in to clear the compound that it became evident Sherwood was not your average soldier.

Sounding like an air traffic controller, Sherwood began calmly calling in the platoon’s position and map grid coordinates to brigade headquarters at nearby Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province. The coordinates would be used to direct US warplanes to drop heavy ordnance near the platoon’s position should it become trapped from enemy fire.

As the scouts and Afghan police wrapped up the mission, Sherwood was again on the radio calling in the unit’s position and grid coordinates, just in case the squad came under fire on their return to Salerno.

Once done, Sherwood slipped back into soldier mode as he and the rest of the Army platoon plodded through the farm fields surrounding the compound and returned to the convoy of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles waiting to take the unit back to base.

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