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Army commends JTACs for exceptional mission support in Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Capt. Anna-Marie Wyant
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Public Affairs

Two joint terminal attack controllers assigned to the 817th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron were commended by the Army for their achievements in support of joint military operations in Afghanistan.


Staff Sgt. Stephen Mynatt from the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Carson, Colorado, and a senior airman from the 19th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, each received an Army Commendation Medal during their deployment to Bagram and additional regional locations.


“Radios are our weapons,” said Lt. Col. Michael Kump, 817th EASOS commander. “A JTAC's ability to assess the situation, advise the ground commander, and call in deterrence or firepower is what makes them a force multiplier.”


Mynatt and his fellow JTAC provided crisis response air control and support for Operation Faryab Response. They established an immediate and trusting working relationship with Army Col. Adrian T. Bogart III, the Train, Advise and Assist Command - North deputy commander, leading the response in an ambiguous and highly complex operation against a determined adversary. According to their award citations, they directly contributed to preventing the Province of Faryab, Afghanistan from falling under the control of the Taliban.


From Aug. 20-28, Mynatt and his teammate translated commander's guidance to orchestrate and control fifteen F-16 sorties; nine B-1 bomber sorties; 30 lines of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; nine employments of AH-64 air weapons teams; twelve shows of force; eleven shows of presence and ten kinetic strikes.


As a result of these actions and in conjunction with other Afghan and U.S. forces, the JTACs inflicted extensive battle damage to the Taliban, including the destruction of captured Afghan Army equipment, which would have been a significant tactical advantage to the Taliban in Faryab Province had it fallen under their control.


“It was a team effort with everyone involved, and I wouldn't have been successful without the dedication of the Resolute Support Tactical Command Post staff,” Mynatt said. “Even with limited resources, I was able to make the best out of just having a map, compass and radio.”


Mynatt and his teammate immediately integrated with the TAAC-N and RS TAC staffs, advised them on airpower integration and were instrumental in refining their staff processes to offensively target an extremely dynamic threat, Kump said. They performed above their scope of responsibility, filling the role of the air liaison officer by connecting various authorities and appropriately applying assets to facilitate an Afghan retrograde, while neutralizing threats across an entire Afghan Province.


“Being able to integrate with an expeditionary Army staff and help them work through tactical and strategic problem sets was a unique experience for us,” the senior airman JTAC from Fort Campbell said.  “We were able to advise both the Army and Afghan forces on how to efficiently bring airpower into the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces scheme of maneuver during a critical mission.”


The JTACs’ actions resulted in exceptionally high battle damage to the enemy without civilian casualties, Bogart said. He called their performance “exceptional, heroic and valorous, and well above the call to duty,” and said their “character, stamina and devotion were unmatched.”


Over the first three days at the onset of the Battle for Faryab, the JTACs managed multiple round-the-clock and sorties simultaneously, and they quickly and accurately provided decision-making criteria to the ground force commander, he added.


“I am extremely proud of these two Airmen and how well they represented the squadron and the Air Force on this no-notice mission,” Kump said. “Their skill and attention to detail turned the tide of the battle in this highly-contested province, enabled the ANDSF to regroup, and forced the Taliban to withdraw from key terrain.”


The 817th EASOS provides close air support command and control, terminal attack control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance expertise, and weather forecasting and warning capability to rotary-wing task forces, manned/unmanned intelligence platforms, and maneuver units, as well as command headquarters across the combined joint operations area. Their operations fall under NATO’s Resolute Support mission. The squadron, a direct-report unit to 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force – Afghanistan, is a tenant unit of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.


“The men and women of the 817th rely heavily on the excellent day-to-day support we receive from the 455th,” Kump said.


The 455th is the primary Air Force entity in theater that provides finance, legal, historian, chaplain and many other support functions to the 817th and other tenant units at Bagram. 


The 817th operationally integrates with the 455th by directing the wing’s A-10s, F-16s and MQ-9s to support ground units and assist with airspace management for the aircraft. The squadron’s JTACs and tactical air control parties oversee and control wing aircraft during air-to-ground missions, while intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance liaison officers assist ground forces in establishing collection plans and requirements.


“I have the privilege of commanding one of the most unique units in Afghanistan,” Kump said. “We provide many capabilities to the operations in this country and have some extraordinary Airmen executing missions and Army support across the entire country.”