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Honoring heroes & our past

  • Published
  • By Col. David Almand
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing commander
This is a very special week and one that will be remembered for years to come. First, we will be privileged to take part in a ceremony that honors a fallen hero, and then we'll turn our thoughts to recognizing the achievements of our past as we look forward to a bright future.

On Saturday morning, everyone is encouraged to attend a ceremony in which the Silver Star will be presented to the family of Senior Airman Bradley Smith, who was killed in action Jan. 3, 2010. The Silver Star is the third highest combat military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of service for valor in the face of the enemy.

The full story about Brad can be viewed here. Part of the story describes what happened:

"As a Tactical Air Control Party member, or TACP, Brad was part of a two-man team assigned to support a 13-man Army platoon and was trained to call in close air support should the men come under fire and need the battlefield neutralized from above.
It was during a patrol on Jan. 3, 2010, that the team entered a village in the Kandahar Province to clear the area when they came under attack. As part of the team advanced over a bridge, they triggered an IED, which killed two soldiers and seriously wounded Senior Airman Mike Malarsie--Brad's TACP partner.

While under intense fire, Brad and Army medic Brian Bowman went to their aid, crossing the bridge to pull the men from a nearby creek where they had been thrown. They pulled Mike, who was blinded by the explosion, and retrieved the body of the fallen soldier, and brought them to a safe spot where Brad administered "hasty first aid to Mike's traumatic injuries."

Once stabilized, Brad rejoined the ongoing firefight and called in close air support. During the next 30 minutes, Brad controlled three separate formations of attack helicopters while steering them clear of friendly fire. By this time, the body of the other fallen soldier had been located and Brad volunteered--without hesitation--to conduct the recovery mission. Joined again by Bowman, they retrieved the body, waded through waist-high water in the creek and just as they made it to the casualty collection point a second IED exploded, killing them both instantly."

What is clearly evident is that he embodied everything we want our Airmen to be: courageous, selfless, proficient and devoted to duty. It is tragic to lose our young men and women ... it's as if the world just stops revolving for a moment when their life is taken from us. Yet, what remains is that last full measure of devotion. Those last few moments in Brad's life speaks volumes to who he was and the legacy that has been left behind.

You may have read about Brad in the Air Force's "Portraits in Courage, Vol. V" booklet, which outlines his actions of that day. As our recently retired Air Force Chief of Staff--Gen. Norton A. Schwartz--states in the foreword of that book, "the indomitable character of our nation is typified by ordinary people who accomplish remarkable deeds in the face of daunting challenges."

He adds that the collection of stories serves as a tribute to the spirit and accomplishments of all Airmen and poignantly reminds us all of the sacrifices that are required to secure the many blessing of liberty. I hope you all will join us as we gather to show support for the Smith family--his parents, Garry and Paula, widow, Tiffany, 3-year-old daughter, Chloe, and brother, Ryan, who is also an active duty Air Force member.

More information about the ceremony can be found online at and in this week's paper. Be sure to follow Facebook as we post photos of the event. I hope you can join us at the ceremony followed by the 3rd annual run held in honor of this fine Airman.

Brad's parents have turned their time and attention to helping others and want to focus on strengthening other family relationships as they move forward. One way we can also strenthen relationship is by coming together to celebrate our heritage and our achievements as we participate in our annual Air Force Ball Saturday evening.

Joining us is retired General Norton Schwartz, the 22nd Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who agreed to come visit the Scott family once again! We are privileged to host him and his wife, Susie, and we look forward to his presentation during the evening. His vast experience and leadership during the past 39 years has helped to keep this Air Force in premiere fighting condition and extended its legacy throughout the world.

The Air Force Ball celebrates the 65th birthday of the Air Force, officially recognized on Sept. 18, 1947 and it marks a time when we can reflect on how far we've come as a Service and as a nation. It will be a chance for us to celebrate our heritage as we look forward to the future. Additionally, we are acknowledging the 95th anniversary of Scott AFB! Considering our great heritage, I think we look pretty good for our age! It must be all those "code red" clean up days throughout the years.

During this time, I want to extend my gratitude for your service and sacrifice, and for that of your families, and I echo General Schwartz when he said "your dedication to mission and devotion to duty are unparalleled and in equal measure to the full range of vital air, space and cyber capabilities that we provide to our joint and coalition teammates and to the nation." Thank you for all you do and let's take a moment to not only honor our fallen heroes but to also recognize the many sacrifices of so many who've brought us to this moment in our grand history. Air power!