Special Tactics operators, friends and family gathered at the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Savannah, Georgia, for a valorous awards ceremony honoring the achievements of Airmen from the 17th Special Tactics Squadron’s Detachment 1 Feb. 18, 2020.
Eight Special Tactics Tactical Air Control Party specialists and certified Joint Terminal Attack Controllers were honored for their selfless actions during a 105-day deployment supporting the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Among the decorations presented were two Bronze Star Medals with Valor, two Purple Heart Medals, one Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor, seven Air Force Commendation Medals with Combat Device and one Joint Service Achievement Medal with Combat Device.
“As I took command of the 17th STS, Detachment 1 was just getting ready to deploy on this rotation. I had almost no time to ready the men or their families…“ said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Travis Deutman. “…but reality is, they are always ready.”
The troop was a part of a Joint Task Force embedded with inter-agency partners and a joint advise-and-assist element downrange. The team in total accomplished 129 direct action raids and 153 kinetic strikes.
“During one mission, directed by the President of the United States, the force successfully killed the top al-Qaeda leader of the region, a victory commended by the President himself,” said U.S. Air Force Col. William White, 720th Special Tactics Group commander. “These cumulative accomplishments pay tribute to the daily operating tempo of the troop as a whole. Tonight, however, we come together to recognize the exemplary individual performances of specific members of the troop.”
Tech Sgt. Bryan Gartside was honored as one of the Bronze Star Medal with Valor recipients, recognized for his actions as part of a joint counterterrorism raid force mission in July 2019. As Gartside and his team were surrounded with overwhelming enemy fires, Gartside exposed himself to engage the closest enemy fighter with his own rifle while simultaneously calling a danger-close air strike on the enemy position. Throughout the battle, he continued to expose himself to identify enemy fighters and call in precise danger-close strikes eliminating enemy forces.
Staff Sgt. Zachary Sherwood was also awarded the Bronze Star with Valor along with the Purple Heart Medal for his selfless actions during a night-time raid in late July. As the only Airman and assistant team leader on his raid force, Sherwood was personally exposed to hostile fire while calling in several danger close strikes taking out enemy forces, anti-aircraft machine guns and an improvised explosive device factory.
Among the other recognized actions included one ST operator’s precise control of fires and preparation of landing zones for a casualty evacuation mission, which ultimately saved the life of a wounded Ranger as well as another Airman’s management of multiple aircraft and reconnaissance assets for 31 continuous hours, which proved instrumental in ensuring zero friendly casualties and 42 enemies killed in action.
“While these are just a few examples of the courageous acts of [the troop], they demonstrate the team’s fierce commitment to their fellow soldiers, as well as the nation at large,” said White. “To the family, friends, and co-workers of these warriors, I thank you for the endless support you provide these men. And, to the men of [the troop], I thank you for the stellar work that you do in defense of our great country, and for our inalienable freedoms.”
The 17th STS specializes in providing joint fires expertise including kinetic strikes, close air support, air-to-ground integration and special reconnaissance as part of the Air Force Special Tactics enterprise. The squadron is known for its proud heritage and partnership with Army Rangers as well as sustaining a deployed streak of nearly 7,000 days dating back to October 2001 and the start of the Global War on Terror.
This article was originally published by 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs, 24th Special Operations Wing.