Described as a little brother, big brother relationship, the Tactical Air Control party members have a lot more at stake than just family rituals.
Both TACP members, the joint terminal attack controller and the radio operator maintainer and driver not only depend on each other to get the mission accomplished, but to also get home safely.
A ROMAD is an entry-level TACP that is not yet certified to call in close-air support while JTACs are certified TACP members, who call in and coordinate airstrikes on demand.
Tech. Sgt. Aaron Cass, and Airman 1st Class Tommy Allgier make up the two man TACP team at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan.
Both are members of the 817th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron and are deployed from Ft. Carson, Colo., where they support the 4th Infantry, 4th Brigade.
Their mission is to provide armed overwatch for military units on the ground in Afghanistan.
"Basically I bridge the gap between the Air Force and the Army when it comes to air assets," Cass, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, said. "I integrate all the Air Force platforms that are fighters and bombers and ensure that I meet the ground force commander's intent of close air support."
When it is too much for the ground forces, the JTAC can call in close air support to help them out. The JTAC is always ready to call in close air support whenever it may be requested.
"I have been fortunate to be with 4th Infantry, 4th Brigade for two of my deployments, and they have been good to me. They have been good to the JTAC community. They know what we bring to the fight and they know how to utilize us. We are the close air support experts and we are there to help them. I don't see us as Air Force. I don't see them as Army. I see us as a team to get our objective accomplished, so we can go back home to our families."
Although the job is stressful, the thing about the TACP community is they are always there for each other, said Cass who has been in the Air Force for 10 years.
"The camaraderie is the best thing about my job," he said. "All of us are a bunch of type-A personalities. We are such a small community who make such a big difference."
And, this is the same mentality the JTACs have with their ROMADs.
"It's kind of like a family," Cass said. "We are just like brothers. Typically in a family, brothers pick on each other and whatnot."
All jokes aside, Cass reflected the ROMAD is vital to the mission.
In the tactical operations center, when troops are in contact, there are a lot of questions being thrown at the JTAC about air assets. The JTAC needs to know what is happening on the ground, needs to keep everyone informed and needs to make sure the information is being passed up the chain of command.
This is where the ROMAD comes in.
"ROMADs are definitely beneficial to have," Cass said. "They start learning how to multitask. They can be working the radio, communicating with leadership, looking on maps, getting information from battle captains . . . basically, just relaying that information. Whether they tell me or if I have a whole bunch of things going on, they will write it on the piece of paper and put it in my face so that I can get to it."
While this is where the ROMAD helps out in the TOC, they can be a lifesaver when they are out on missions outside the wire. This was the case for the Allgier when he found himself on his first mission and the JTAC he was with got sick.
"It was a lot higher altitude on this mission and the JTAC [I was with] got sick," Allgier said. "We were replacing some other guys who had been up there for a while. I had to step up and do more than what is expected so the guys we were replacing could get back to their base. I didn't have a lot of controlling experience talking to aircraft, so I had to do more of that...until the JTAC was able to recover."
"I was nervous," he continued. "This is my first deployment and first time outside the wire. I didn't really know what I was doing. The JTAC was giving me instructions saying 'I need you to do this this and this.' So it went by pretty smooth. I was nervous having to talk to the aircraft."
Although Allgier was nervous, together with his JTAC, they were able to press to get the mission done.
Allgier is one of approximately 24 Airmen from the 817th ASOS on a nine-month deployment. During this time, he has worked under five different JTACs because they are moved around throughout the area of operation to support mission requirements.
"As a ROMAD you are supposed to know everything a JTAC knows and are supposed to be able to double check them," Allgier said. "If you see something that the JTAC has done, you can point it out to them and say hey, recheck this. It is that back up, really; it is a huge responsibility to tell the aircraft they are clear to clear hot to drop. They have someone double checking. Being the ROMAD, you are the apprentice, so you are picking up all the things your JTAC does and if you work with multiple JTACs you get to pick multiple [traits] from each JTAC, so when you get to that level you are more squared away."
One of the skills he has seen in Cass that he likes is that he is always confident and never second guesses when he doesn't think something is right, Allgier explained.
"It has been really good working with Sergeant Cass," the Sandy, Utah native said. "He is a good JTAC."
Just as Allgier looks up to Cass, the JTAC holds his ROMAD in high regard.
"I've known [Tommy] since he wasn't even a five-level," Cass said. "He is really smart and knows his job, and I think he is going to be a really good JTAC. We have had to shift a lot of JTACs throughout this task force. He has at least got the experience of having different JTACS and has been able to see how they react and how they blend with their Army counterparts."
As for words of advice to the young ROMAD, the experienced JTAC wants his ROMAD to keep things in perspective.
"It is an extremely important job and is stressful, but very rewarding," Cass said.
Article by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Mosness, U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs