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July 24, 2013

Combat Controllers Bring Doom on Al Qaeda & The Taliban

If asked to name, without a shred of evidence or data for backup, three groups of American combatants that have caused the most mayhem and chaos in Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, these would be my guess: Apache helicopter pilot/gunners, AC-130 gunners, and Air Force Combat Controllers.  (Drone Operators… NO.)

Please read this Air Force Times article about two of the latter, Combat Controllers Technical Sergeant Ismael Villegas and Staff Sergeant Dale Young, and the awards they earned.

With his second Silver Star, TSgt Villegas joins that rare group of heroes with TWO of the 3 highest awards for valor in the global war on terror.  He is the second Airman to achieve this, following in the footsteps of fellow Combat Controller Sean Harvell. Outstanding job, TSgt Villegas… FIRST THERE!- BK

From the article: TSgt Villegas:

During a battle early in the mission, a friendly element was pinned down by hostile fire. Villegas ran toward the troops to get a sight on the insurgent’s position. While completely exposed to the small arms fire, Villegas coordinated with an overhead remotely piloted aircraft and fixed-wing air support to drop 14,000 pounds of bombs.

In another instance, Villegas volunteered for a patrol to explore the area, and his team came under enemy fire. The group was inside a structure, stacked up on a door, when an RPG hit. Shrapnel shredded the wall in front of them and hit a Green Beret soldier next to him.

“I heard the screams, so I grabbed him, pulled him back and began directing air support in the area,” he said.

Villegas moved between his team and the enemy, providing additional cover fire and controlled close air support within 60 meters of him to stop the onslaught and help the patrol fight their way over the kill zone.

Over the course of the 18-day mission, Villegas controlled 40 aircraft, dropping more than 32,500 pounds of ordnance. His work resulted in 21 enemy killed and the destruction of eight fighting positions and two communication repeaters…

From the article: SSgt Young:

In May 2009, he joined a team of Army Special Forces, Navy SEALS, Air Force combat controllers, Afghan commandos and other government agencies for Operation Siege Engine, a large onslaught into Taliban-controlled territory to get it ready for U.S. Marines to come in and hold.

It was a known enemy stronghold near Helmand Province and a known headquarters with big money from drug traffickers, Young said.

The team moved in under the cover of darkness May 19, and at first, there was no enemy contact. They moved in to the village. Two roads in the village center crossed at a bazaar, and this is where the Taliban began to fight.

It began with small arms fire from within 150 meters. Then RPGs and 107 millimeter rockets.

“Some of the elements were receiving fire so intense that they couldn’t return fire,” Young said.

Young, the lead JTAC on the team, ran to the center of the village and found the highest vantage point he could. He began coordinating with an AC-130 and helicopter gunships above. He directed a show of force to try to quell the enemy fire. The fighting continued, with some enemy small arms and rocket fire impacting within 10 meters of Young’s position, the award citation says.

He broke his cover, found a better view of the enemy location and radioed aircraft above to drop 500-pound bombs on the enemy.

“The guns were not as effective as we would have liked,” Young said.

The firefights were on and off at times during the 94-hour battle. At one point, another JTAC was wounded. Young organized the aircraft above to bring in a UH-60 Pave Hawk to medically evacuate the airman.

About the Author

is a retired USAF PJ, current U.S. government contractor, and professional curmudgeon. He can often be found peddling a rusty beach cruiser around the beaches of San Diego, smoking dried banana peels and arguing with hippies. He enjoys the Constitution, IPAs, and blondes.

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  • Rick Dembroski

    Excellent story , As a USAF vet I enjoy hearing about guys other that fighter jocks actually getting credit. People forget that pilots are a small fraction of what the Air Force does...

  • alexander m

    My son and I played baseball today under a clear blue sky. We were given that afternoon by your son and your family. Thankyou. I hope that every day you know that countless people like myself enjoy everyday and we never forget why. Never. Thankyou.

  • CoremDeoWarrior

    I have seen some CCTs that are exceptional JTACs, but it is the TACPs bread and butter, which is why I would say there is a larger percentage of exceptional JTACs in the TACP carreerfield. Also to update you TACP is going to a 100% JTAC mission and phasing out the ROMAD. I was advised by STOs and CCTs I recently trained with that the JTAC mission is going away for CCT, and will again focus on airfield seizures and survey

  • tailpipe

    CoremDeoWarrior  Points of clarification: TACP's are not all JTAC's either.  They start out as ROMAD's and drive a humvee for a while til they are determined to be ready to be JTAC's.    The rate at which Controllers become JTAC's is staggering and it's a CCT's ability to control aircraft as a certified air traffic controller as well as his qualifications in Free Fall, Static Line and Dive that makes him very employable as a JTAC whereas your standard TACP isn't. JTAC isn't going anywhere for CCT, the mission may change but the need for the qualification isn't.   Furthermore, TACP is by and large a conventional force attached to conventional units with very few exceptions.  CCT is strictly special operations, that's why TACP is the "primary" CAS asset...not because of some sort of skill difference. TACP's contribution to the fight cannot be denied and they have proven themselves over and over again.  Not taking anything away from them.  However, Controllers train and operate at a whole different level.

  • CoremDeoWarrior

    Still an awesome article!