BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, or JTACs, direct the action of combat aircraft engaged in close air support and other offensive air operations from a forward position. They are essential to mission success and are often operating in dangerous environments when deployed.
In January 2010 Senior Airman Bradley Smith, a JTAC assigned to the 10th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Riley, Kansas, and his team were conducting operations near Kandahar, Afghanistan, when they were ambushed by enemy fire.
Simultaneous mortar, improvised explosive device, and machine gun fire left Smith’s JTAC teammate Senior Airman Mike Malarsie and a Soldier immobilized in an adjacent creek. A second Soldier was missing in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
Smith ran though lethal crossfire while returning fire in order to save his comrades. He rescued the disoriented Airman and recovered the mortally wounded Soldier from the water, then administered first aid while continuing to return fire and coordinate close air support.
On his way to recover the remains of the second Soldier, who died during the attack, a second IED detonated, killing Smith instantly.
Malarsie was severely wounded and ultimately lost his eyesight, but survived the deadly attack due to Smith’s heroic actions.
“Brad was one of the most selfless people I have ever known,” Malarsie said. “If he saw a friend in need or someone in need, he was there to try and make things right, and that is the Brad I will always remember.”
For his actions that day, Smith was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Nov. 9, 2011.
The Silver Star is the third-highest combat military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the United States Armed Forces for valor in the face of the enemy.
During a memorial ceremony in March 2012, the former Canada 9 compound on Kandahar was named to honor Smith’s heroism and sacrifice.
Senior Airman Joshua Leibold, the president of Kandahar’s First Four Council at the time, said they wanted to name the camp after someone who had done something extraordinary and whose actions were heroic and courageous. To everyone involved in the naming process, Smith was an obvious choice.
“I am just a regular guy,” Malarsie, said, “and I got to serve with this amazing person who I will never forget.”
Information from this article was derived from AF.mil.