POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, N.C. (AFNS) -- Master Sgt. Thomas Case, a
tactical air control party Airman in the 18th Air Support Operations
Group here, received his second Silver Star medal Nov. 13, 2014 for
heroic actions during a 2009 deployment to Afghanistan.
Silver Star medal is the U.S. military's third highest military
decoration for valor. It is presented for gallantry in action
against an enemy of the United States. There have been 67 Silver
Stars presented to Airmen for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. H.D. Polumbo Jr., the 9th Air Force commander,
presided over the ceremony.
Maj. Gen. Harry Polumbo, the 9th Air Force Commander, presented Master Sgt. Thomas Case, a tactical air control party airman, 18th Air Support Operations Group, with his second Silver Star medal, Nov. 13, 2014 at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. Case received the medal for gallantry in action during a 2009 deployment to Afghanistan. The Silver Star Medal is the U.S. military's third highest military decoration for valor. It is presented for gallantry in action against an enemy of the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Callaghan)
"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,” Polumbo said of Case's second Silver Star. “If
you look at the Airman's Creed, there are a couple of lines
in there that are particularly important to me when you
consider Sergeant Case's actions: not leaving an Airman
behind, shielding other troops to keep them alive during a
firefight ... that's our Airman's Creed. He epitomizes our
warrior ethos and is the ‘wingman, leader and warrior' our
Airmen want to follow."
For Case, it's not a matter
of another medal, he said. In his eyes, he has done nothing
more than what is asked of him.
"It's recognition for
doing your job," Case said. "You wake up, you get the
mission and you go do it."
He joined an elite group
as the third Airman and the seventh U.S. military member to
receive two Silver Stars since 9/11. Case the only TACP in
the Air Force to receive two Silver Stars.
2009 deployment, Case was embedded with a U.S. Army Ranger
unit. Inserted by helicopter onto the high mountains in
Afghanistan the night of June 17, Case and his team of
Ranger special operations forces were to capture or kill
enemy combatants and to destroy their mountain camps.
After climbing up nearly 1,000 feet of mountainous
terrain carrying heavy equipment, body armor and weaponry,
Case realized they were off route, and using the
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, he
redirected the team.
When they took enemy fire from
higher ground, Case remained exposed to enemy fire to ensure
he knew the enemy's position for an air strike.
Despite the wires on his radio being seriously damaged,
making it nearly impossible to communicate with the
aircraft, Case troubleshot the issue while machine gun
rounds hit the ground and trees one meter from him.
Once ensuring the enemy's position was communicated
correctly, he called in dangerously close air support from
an AC-130 gunship.
Throughout the night's mission,
Case stood up multiple times while under fire to ensure the
safety of his team members, whether to provide them cover or
to make sure the rounds from the aircraft hit enemy
During the battle, while communicating
with multiple aircraft overhead and returning fire with his
M-4 rifle, he spotted two enemy fighters bounding down the
mountain toward his ground force commander. The TACP stepped
forward to protect the commander from gunfire and eliminated
“Even at that time, I was a little bit
older than most of the guys,” said Case, a senior NCO with
18 years of service. “So, I'm a little paternal. It was
automatic for me to step in front of the commander.”
When the enemy repositioned themselves to higher terrain and
began throwing grenades down the mountain slope, even after
six more dangerously close air strikes on the enemies, Case
realized he needed to have eyes on the enemy position. 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.
At the time of his
gallant actions, he was assigned to the 17th ASOS, now the
17th Special Tactics Squadron, at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Special Tactics TACP Airmen deploy with special
operations forces to integrate air combat power and surface
fires into the ground scheme of maneuver, enabling dynamic,
synergistic and lethal firepower on the battlefield. Special
Tactics TACPs support all three Ranger battalions, the 75th
Ranger Regiment's Reconnaissance Company, U.S. Army Special
Forces Operational Detachment A teams, U.S. Navy SEAL Team
platoons, and other special mission units.
perform all air-to-ground integration, surface-to-surface
fire integration (artillery), rotary wing and fixed wing air
combat support, naval gunfire, electronic warfare such as
jamming and intelligence.
By USAF 1st Lt. Katrina Cheesman
Air Force News Service
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Silver Star Recipients