You have to read this story by Brigadier General Jack Briggs about a firefight and the USAF TACP who did his job and then some:
'Sir, tell the TACP thanks'
by Brig. Gen. Jack L. Briggs II
Headquarters, Air Combat Command
12/6/2012 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS) -- On
13 May 2010, an Airman First Class taught me some lessons I'll never
forget. I think of Airman 1st Class Corey Hughes almost every week. His
actions on that particular day in May remind me to focus on others
first, that heroic leaders exist among us all the time, and doing the
right thing takes courage but is worth it.
When troops on the ground in Afghanistan run into trouble, our
asymmetric advantage is our ability to bring airpower to bear quickly
and accurately. It was no different on 13 May. A patrol of soldiers ran
into an ambush in eastern Afghanistan, receiving large volumes of enemy
mortar, heavy machine gun, rocket propelled grenades and small arms
fire. My formation of two F-15E Strike Eagles was called to support the
"Troops in Contact" situation or "TIC." As we arrived on scene, there
were already American wounded.
For the aircraft overhead, our contacts on the ground are young, well
trained, and brave Airmen embedded with each Army unit; they are called
Tactical Air Control Parties (TACP). They are the node between the Army
ground commanders and the Airmen providing support overhead. They
translate the situation from the ground commander's perspective,
integrate airpower into the plan of maneuver or fires, and guide our
attacks with amazing precision. That can sound antiseptic and simple on
paper but in the thick of the battle it is 100 percent adrenaline,
noise, and concentration as bullets fly.
The fight on the ground was very violent by the time my flight arrived.
Our initial contact was with Airman 1st Class Hughes who was yelling
into the radio. He had to be loud as he keyed the mic because his voice
was drowned out by the sound of gunfire in the background. His calls
were quick and broken as he stopped to fire his own weapon in between
radio calls. At one point he said, "Stand by" and the radio went silent.
For the next few minutes we orbited overhead and waited. Where was he?
We called but no answer. Finally his voice came back. He was out of
breath and huffing into his mic, but he calmly gave us the plan to
provide a show of force and cover the ingress of helicopters to evacuate
the patrol, first the wounded and then the rest of the team. The show
of force bought them time and space and eventually all were extracted
safely from a tough situation.
After we landed and debriefed our mission, I headed to the Bagram Craig
Joint Theater Hospital. Craig Hospital is one of the advanced coalition
hospitals in Afghanistan that receives wounded from the battlefield and
stabilizes them prior to their onward movement to more medical care in
I visited regularly to talk with our medical warriors and see how the
wounded were doing. On that day I had a chance to check up on several of
the wounded from the very firefight we'd supported only hours before. I
spoke to a few of the Soldiers from that fight, told them they were
getting the best care in the world and turned to leave, when a shout of
"Sir! Sir!" made me stop. I turned to see a shirtless wounded Soldier
who was shot in the legs, calling out for my attention. He motioned me
back. His eyes reflected his urgency to tell me something. I walked
back, closed the curtain behind me, and crouched to get to his level on
"Sir, tell the TACP thanks," he urgently requested. I asked what
happened. His story explained the mystery from earlier in the day when
A1C Hughes went silent on the radio. This Soldier was moving from one
position to another during the firefight and was hit in the legs. Unable
to move, he took what cover he could. While performing his primary duty
of directing air support, Airman 1st Class Hughes noticed that this
Soldier could not move on his own, told us to "stand by", and ran toward
him. He picked the Soldier up and fireman-carried him to a covered
position. The Soldier said the one thing he would never forget was that
while he was being carried several hundred meters through deadly fire
was staring at a patch on the shoulder of his rescuer. The patch read
"TACP." The Soldier didn't know the Airman's name nor did he see him
again. He just asked that I pass along the thanks somehow.
I spent the next few days tracking the TACP down and that's when I met
Airman 1st Class Hughes and heard his story first hand. I told him when
our F-15E formation checked in we heard the shooting in the background
of every radio call. I described how we listened to his clipped calls to
us, his calm call to us to "stand by" and then how there were minutes
of silence, leaving us concerned as to what was happening. I told him we
then heard him breathlessly get back on the radio as he called for our
show of force.
"What was going on down there?" I asked. He told me how some of the
wounded were near his position and he was going back and forth, under
heavy fire, to check on them, give them water and help them out the best
he could until MEDEVAC arrived. Corey said he saw a Soldier who could
not move on his own and immediately went to pick him up and carry him to
safety. Airman 1st Class Hughes then retraced his steps through the
enemy fire to get back to his position and continue to call in our
effects. What immediately caught my attention was Airman 1st Class
Hughes' tone of voice. He clearly believed his actions weren't anything
special and others would do the same if in that situation.
I often consider the lessons Airman 1st Class Corey Hughes taught that
day. His actions inspire us to put others first, understanding there can
be a cost. His example affirms that there are brave leaders all around
us willing to step forward when it counts, despite the risks. He reminds
me that both success and courage are defined by doing what is right,
even as the bullets fly. Like the wounded Soldier, I also want to tell
the TACP, A1C Hughes, "thanks."