A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation's third highest award for valor this week for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.
Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, the service announced Monday.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
The brave airman who died after falling from a C-130 over the Gulf of Mexico has been identified as Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, 29, whom his squadron commander described as "a man with deep-rooted beliefs who dedicated himself to God, our freedoms, peace, and his family."
Condiff was a special tactics combat controller assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing. He went missing no Nov. 5 after landing in the water about four miles south of Hurlburt Field, Florida, during a training jump.
In the last two hours of his life, Air Force Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman saved the lives of a special operations teams by sacrificing himself to stop the enemy from shooting down a helicopter carrying reinforcements to the battle.
In 2002, John Chapman survived alone on top of Roberts Ridge through a cold Afghan night, fending off assaults by the Taliban single-handedly. He sacrificed his life to provide cover for a Chinook full of Rangers who were about to set down inside of a Taliban killbox.