|SSgt. Christopher Lewis Awarded Silver Star For Mosul Heroics
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Conroy
|April 2, 2018
The steel enforced car bomb barreled relentlessly toward the
joint special operations team … it seemingly came from nowhere.
A Special Tactics operator, exposed in an open turret hatch,
began to fire the Humvee-mounted M2 machinegun into the large pickup
truck, as it hurtled closer and closer.
200 meters, 150
meters, 125 meters… finally, the operator triggered a massive
detonation at 100 meters away.
The team was safe … for now.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Lewis, a combat controller with the
23rd Special Tactics Squadron, was awarded the Silver Star Medal
during a ceremony hosted by Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air
Force Special Operations Command, Jan. 19, 2018, here for his
actions during the Mosul offensive in 2016.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Lewis, a combat
controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, receives
the Silver Star Medal from U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad
Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command,
during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Jan. 19, 2018.
Lewis received the Silver Star for his actions during the
Mosul offensive in Iraq in 2016, during the course of which
he engaged with enemies at close range multiple times and
called in four precision airstrikes, providing his team
crucial air coverage and eliminating more than 20 enemy
forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Victor J.
“Every street was
contested, every building was unsafe,” said Webb. “Chris epitomizes
what we all strive to be in this command. I am extremely proud of
Lewis was embedded as a joint terminal attack
controller with a Naval Special Warfare Platoon during the opening
days of the Mosul offensive on Oct. 20, 2016, in Iraq. The joint
team was tasked with advising and assisting Kurdish Peshmerga forces
expunging Da’esh fighters from strongholds and liberating the city.
“Chris is our go-to guy, he is one of our most experienced
JTACs in the theater, and for that reason, we put him in our
toughest spots,” said a Special Tactics officer who was Lewis’ team
leader in garrison and expeditionary special tactics squadron
commander. “Prior to the battle of Mosul, we actually hand-picked
him as the most seasoned operator … I wanted Staff Sgt. Lewis to
create the best force multipliers for the impending battle that we
The day began at 2:30 a.m. with a 15 kilometer drive
south to link up with the Peshmerga fighters. The convoy consisted
of close to 50 vehicles, including tanks and up-armored bulldozers,
which are designed to trigger roadside bombs and clear the path.
As the sun began to rise, around 7 a.m., the joint force began
to receive indirect fires from the closest village to the forward
line of troops. The automated .50 caliber turret system on Lewis’
vehicle became disabled.
In the midst of withering grenade,
mortar and small arms fire, Lewis systemically engaged the enemy in
multiple locations from the open turret. He held this vulnerable
position for hours despite direct enemy fire impacted within inches
During this time, Lewis simultaneously directed
airstrikes from F-15 Eagles and B-52 Stratofortresses within 400
meters of the team’s positions before engaging the pickup truck-born
IED, providing the cover and opportunity for the team to move out of
The convoy didn’t go far before being ambushed
again by enemy fire from a concealed tunnel entrance only 100 meters
away and detonating several IEDs, mortally wounding one U.S. Air Force
Lewis leapt out of his vehicle without hesitation to
assist his wounded teammate, and coordinated the casualty evacuation
while providing medical care just feet away from an unexploded IED.
He established a hasty helicopter landing zone and moved his
severely wounded teammate to the extraction point while
simultaneously working with other aircraft to assess and eliminate a
second, vehicle-born threat before it reached his team.
Lewis’ calm, collected demeanor was apparent when he received the
news of his nomination for the Silver Star.
“It was emotional
at first, you really think about, or at least I thought about, ‘do
you deserve this?’” said Lewis. “Obviously if it wasn’t for the
proficiency of the aircrews overhead and the Navy Seal team, I
wouldn’t be able to do what I do. Being a combat controller and
within the community, you’d like to think that any one of us could
step in and fill that role and do what I did that day, and that’s
just the level of professionalism and proficiency that we like to
hold all of ourselves to.”
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Conroy
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