Preserving the legacy: Award recognizes selfless Airman

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Conroy
  • 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

In order to preserve the legacy of a fallen teammate, the Special Tactics community dedicated the first-ever Tech. Sgt. Timothy Officer Jr award at a TACP course graduation ceremony Nov. 3, here.

Officer, a tactical air control party Airman from the 720th Operations Support Squadron, perished due to injuries sustained in an accidental head-to-head collision during a military parachute training, Aug. 3, 2015.

Officer was a 14-year combat veteran with multiple deployments in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom where he earned numerous medals including two Bronze Star Medals (one with Valor) for his bravery against armed enemies of the United States.

The idea of cementing Officer’s legacy within the tight-knit Special Tactics TACP community came to fruition after Tech. Sgt. Dave Carden, an instructor with STTS, realized there was no name for the TACP Top Performer award.

“Before, there was no name attached to the Top Performer award and we had recently lost two of our guys and it hit close to home,” said Carden. “Timmy was one of the first TACPs selected, when they started pushing TACPs to [Air Force Special Operations Command], so it seemed fitting.”

The award was presented by Officer’s family to the team member who best exemplifies the attributes of being a team player by continually putting others before himself, keeping the team together and striving for mission success.

“Timmy would always take care of everyone before himself, including my kids,” said Carden. “This honors the individual who takes care of the team instead of himself…. Like Timmy, putting anyone before himself and doing anything asked of him.”

The first-ever recipient of the Tech. Sgt. Timothy A. Officer Top Performer Award was Staff Sgt. Ivan De La Selva, a TACP assigned to the Special Tactics Training Squadron.

“Every day we put on the beret and uniform we are representing people like him and his family,” said De La Selva. “We give our everything for them: those who have lost their lives in service to their country.”

Officer is survived by his parents, and his mother and step-father were in attendance during the graduation ceremony.

"He was kind, beautiful, smart, funny, and brave, and this award exemplifies that,” said Linda Ammons, Officer’s mother. “It represents the best of Airmen who stand up and say, 'we will defend our nation.’”

Officer was a warrior at heart, on and off the battlefield, according to those who were close to him.

“Timmy was family; he was the brother I never had, an uncle to my kids and my brother in arms,” said Master Sgt. Richard Douglas, Officer’s best friend. “I was with Timmy when he earned his [Bronze Star Medal with Valor], and I have always credited him with saving my life that day. He was fearless, funny and genuine… A team member who will forever be missed.”

Officer received a Bronze Star medal with Valor as a young Airman First Class in 2003, during the invasion of Iraq, distinguishing himself by heroism when a large artillery shell exploded fifteen feet from Officer and his U.S. Army teammates. Despite the chaos of the explosion, Officer jumped to action and eliminated two enemy killed in action while simultaneously coordinating close air support.

When his crew ran out of ammunition, Officer willingly put his life at risk to run across the battlefield and gather more ammunition. In the end, he contributed to 55 enemy killed and numerous enemy tanks destroyed with precisely coordinated air strikes, and “undoubtedly saved his fellow crewmembers with countless members” of the U.S. Army battalion, “directly aided in the defeat of the enemy,” according to his citation submitted by the Army.

Special Tactics TACP Airmen deploy with Special Operations Forces to integrate air combat power and surface fires into the ground domain, enabling lethal firepower on today's battlefield. Officer served first in the conventional TACP forces, then was selected to serve in AFSOC alongside special operations forces.

Like Officer before them, the six Airmen who graduated completed the most demanding, dynamic training within the TACP career field, according to Carden. The graduates will go on to join the less than 10 percent of TACPs, who serve in Special Tactics.

“This award means a lot to me personally,” said Douglas. “I was with Timmy the day he passed and this award will ensure his legacy lives on through the warriors who come behind him.”