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UNSUNG HEROES: The Airman Who Took Control Of Air And Ground Operations Under Enemy Fire
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Air Force has given out 71 Silver Stars for valorous actions. Two of those belong to Master Sgt. Thomas Case, one from Iraq in 2003 and the other from Afghanistan in 2009.
During his 2009 deployment, Case was embedded with a U.S. Army Ranger unit. On June 17, his unit was instructed to conduct a nighttime mountain operation in the Khost-Gardez Pass. The assignment was to destroy mountain camps set up by insurgent forces in the area.
Throughout the treacherous hike, Case was charged with controlling air support in the form of an AC-130 gunship. But after scaling nearly 1,000 feet of mountainous terrain, he realized they were off route, but he used an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft to set their path straight.
Once they were able to confirm the enemy’s position, Case made the move to call in dangerously close air support. In order to protect his platoon from friendly fire, he stood up and exposed himself to both air support fire and enemy fire in order to pinpoint the exact location of the enemy camps.
During the battle, while directing multiple aircraft overhead and returning enemy fire with his M-4 rifle, he noticed two enemy fighters with AK-47s zeroing in on his ground force commander. Case immediately put himself between the fights and his commander to protect him from gunfire. He then took them out with his M-4.
Case took out both.
“At that time, I was a little bit older than most of the guys so, I’m a little paternal,” Case told Air Force news. “It was automatic for me to step in front of the commander.”
After taking on sustained air fire, the enemy repositioned on higher ground and began launching grenades down the mountain slope. This left the Rangers exposed. Case realized that in order to complete the mission and protect his platoon, he needed to have eyes on their positions.
According to his Silver Star citation, “While under direct fire, he climbed 50 meters up a 60-degree incline with near-zero visibility from the dust to join the lead fire team. He fixed his radio and directed four AC-130 air strikes, and then threw a grenade to eliminate incoming insurgents just seven meters away.”
Case’s coolness in running both ground and air operations, and willingness to step into the line of fire to protect his team, earned him his second Silver Star, making him one of only three men in the post-9/11 Air Force to be awarded this distinct honor twice. He is the seventh U.S. military member to receive two Silver Stars in the Global War on Terror.
On November 13, 2014, at his medal ceremony, Maj. Gen. H.D. Polumbo Jr., the 9th Air Force commander, said, “Master Sgt. Case answered his Nation's call and defended his country with his life. He is the embodiment of our legacy of valor and will always be part of our proud heritage. He epitomizes our warrior ethos and is the ‘wingman, leader and warrior’ our Airmen want to follow.”
While the U.S. military wants to keep roughly 8,600 troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban's deputy leader has just made clear that his group wants all U.S. service members to leave the country as part of any peace agreement.
"The withdrawal of foreign forces has been our first and foremost demand," Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote in a story for the New York Times on Thursday.
In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.
Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.
Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"
The next day was different.
"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."
A video has emerged showing a U.S. military vehicle running a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria after it tried to pass an American convoy.
Questions still remain about the incident, to include when it occurred, though it appears to have taken place on a stretch of road near the Turkish border town of Qamishli, according to The War Zone.
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.
We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.
Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.
Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.
Survival expert and former Special Air Service commando Edward "Bear" Grylls made meme history for drinking his own urine to survive his TV show, Man vs. Wild. But the United States Air Force did Bear one better recently, when an Alaska-based airman peed in an office coffee maker.
While the circumstances of the bladder-based brew remain a mystery, the incident was written up in a newsletter written by the legal office of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on February 13, a base spokesman confirmed to Task & Purpose.