I want to introduce and welcome Michael Golembesky to the MARSOC SOFREP team. Michael is a former JTAC with 2d MSOB and has a kick-ass book coming out about his time with MARSOC in Afghanistan, Level Zero Heroes. [divider] USSOCOM – SOF Truth #3 “Their quality is more important than quantities”Your Special Ops Team just got ambushed in a remote village deep inside of Afghanistan and there is a MQ-1 Predator drone providing close air support overhead. While the rest of your team is engaging the enemy with small arms, your head is buried in a map or video feed with your ear glued to the handset. Your body is telling you to drop everything and fire your weapon but your training keeps you on task with providing CAS to your team in a pinch.
Excerpt from Level Zero Heroes – Chapter 2: Hero Recovery
It was dark and a small piece of the river could be seen through the front windshield. The vehicle came to a stop and Floyd popped the airbrakes. “This is it, go ahead and dismount”, Andy our team leader said over the radio.
Jamie began scanning across the river with the thermals on the remote-gun. Pat dismounted out of the back and linked up with George and Mark from the other MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) to get the Afghan Soldiers into a security posture.
I repositioned myself on the back-steps of the MRAP, while keeping Andy in earshot. All the vehicles turned their engines off, it left an eerie silence in the air. All you could hear was the continuing splash of the fast flowing river just a few meters away. It was so dark that you couldn’t even see the vehicle parked right next to you, only the scattered stars in the clear and cold sky. My night vision goggles (NVG) were almost useless to me. I took in a deep and nervous breath; then exhaled.
The silent was broken by a bright red RPG trail cutting through the air about 30 feet above our position and impacting into the hillside. This was immediately followed by a hail of bullets at point blank range from the tree-line directly across the river from us. It was violent, like a loud popcorn machine going off right next to your ear.
“Contact across the river!” I heard somebody yell from out of the dark. The Marines and Airborne Soldiers on the ground immediately opened up with a volley of small arms directed back across the river. I got down on one knee and fired a burst of bullets from underneath the MRAPs back door. I looked to my right to see an Afghan Soldier firing a RPG; when he pulled the trigger the rocket exploded on his shoulder and burst into flames. He threw it down to the ground and ran off to grab another weapon. Mark was standing right next to him when it exploded. He was helping to direct his aim in the dark using his NVGs.
“Get those heavy guns up!” Someone said over the radio. Nothing; both crew-serve weapons on the Army’s Humvees (HMMVV) had jammed. The small arms fire continued to crack and snap all around our position. Andy yelled back to Jamie to get our remote-gun firing, but it was also jammed! This is one of those situations where shit seemed to be piling on top of more shit.
I jumped back up into the MRAP and grabbed my video scout laptop. I called over the radio to the Predator drone that was still down working south in the valley.
“Troops in contact, troops in contact; standby to copy grid!” Send it, the Predator responded.
MARSOC Joint Terminal Attack Controller
Being a JTAC is a selfless job with zero room for error; not only in MARSOC, but in all branches of SOCOM. In a community where they are not viewed as A&S Operators by fellow team members and thought of as “Special” by other support elements personnel because you work at the team level. JTACs occupy the grey space between shooter and enabler. MSOT JTACs have the ability to unleash an enormous amount of firepower on the enemy and any Operator who has ever been in a shit storm will contest to that. Unlike ODAs who are often augmented with Air Force Controllers/CCT, MARSOC must fill its JTAC requirements from within. This position is usually held by a Fire Support Man (0861) or Radio Operator (0621) and is considered a great honor due to the burden of responsibility and critical skillsets/qualifications that they bring to the team. Skill and self-control is a universal characteristic that all SOCOM JTAC/CCTs poses. This is what makes them a critical component to any Special Operations organization. MARSOC, Always Faithful, Always Forward [divider] Michael Golembesky is a former JTAC with 2D Marine Special Operations Battalion (MSOB) and author of “Level Zero Heroes” – The Story of U.S. Marine SOF in Afghanistan.
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