First There That Others May Live: Air Force recognizes Special Tactics contributions

  • Published
  • By Capt. Katrina Cheesman
  • 24th Special Operations Wing

The brightest of Air Force’s ground special operations forces were recognized for their contributions to the force and fight in their annual awards ceremony here, Aug. 25.

The eight Airman hailed from multiple major commands, and included a Special Tactics officer, a combat rescue officer, pararescuemen and combat controllers.

Two Survival Evade Resistance Escape specialists were also honored, as well.

"We don't talk about our job. We just go out and do our job,” SrA Nathan Young, a pararescueman from the 56th Rescue Squadron, said. He was honored for his role in providing special operations forces with personnel recovery coverage. “Seeing and hearing the great accomplishments done by my fellow brothers, and having it recognized for it, is pretty awesome."

Special Tactics Airmen are Special Operations Command’s air-to-ground integration force, enabling global access, precision strike and personnel recovery. As some of the most highly trained service members in the military, Special Tactics Airmen often operate in dangerous and austere areas around the world.

The list of accomplishments were varying, but impressive: a combat control Airman who controlled 450 aircraft, eliminated 60 enemies, and removed injured from a hostile situation during a mass casualty event. A Special Tactics officer who led 24 Special Tactics Airmen in Afghanistan in 140 high-risk missions. A pararescue NCO who was first there to provide care for 24 injured in an attack, saving three critically-injured personnel.

"We are incredibly proud of the accomplishments these Airmen have made, from saving lives to bringing air power to bear on the enemies of our nation,” Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Rich, pararescue careerfield manager, said. “The Airmen recognized this year are great examples of what many of our Airmen across the force, in Special Tactics and Rescue, accomplish every day, regardless of the costs."

Known as the Quiet Professionals, the Airmen themselves were humbled by the attention.

"It's humbling to be around individuals that have done such great accomplishments,” Tech. Sgt. Richard Luna, a pararescueman from 320th Special Tactics Squadron, said. “Not just the people getting the awards, but the people sitting in the seats have done just as much, if not more."

After the ceremony, a mother of a Special Tactics Airman said it was “the single most proud day of my life” and to “hear all the citations of the recipients was an honor and privilege.”

This ceremony highlighted great examples of the kind of courage and leadership necessary in today’s Air Force, according to Chief Master Sgt. Jeff George, combat control career field manager.

"The service should look to Airmen like this to help lead the service into the future,”
George said. “The force is in a transition period, it's these kind of Airmen that have sustained substantial combat experience, and gained significant leadership experience in the joint arena, that will guide the service to unparalleled success against our enemies."