For most service members, earning a Bronze Star with a “V” device (signifying heroism or valor in combat) could be the highlight of a long career. A Silver Star, which is the third-highest medal for valor bestowed by the U.S. armed forces, would be an even greater and uncommon accomplishment. The U.S. Air Force now has plans to award not one, but both of these prestigious medals to a Special Tactics Airman from California.
Tech. Sgt. Cam Kelsch, a tactical air control party operator serving in the 17th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing, will soon receive both a Silver Star and Bronze Star with “V” device for two separate missions conducted in Afghanistan during the same deployment. Both medals are being awarded for battles in which Kelsch risked his life in order to save the lives of others.
While many of the details of these operations remain classified, the Air Force has released that the first of these two engagements took place on April 25, 2018, when Kelsch was serving alongside Army Rangers tasked with neutralizing a high-value target. Kelsh served as the joint terminal attack controller for that operation, coordinating air support throughout the firefight.
While receiving accurate fires from the enemy and with no regard for his own personal safety, Kelsch exposed himself to danger in order to control airstrikes from an AC-130 gunship using 40mm air-to-ground munitions [within] 35-40 meters of his team’s position,” according to the Silver Star citation.
Kelsch was wounded during the battle, but still managed to continue effectively coordinating air support and even pulled a wounded Ranger out of harm’s way.
Minutes later and without regard for personal safety, Sergeant Kelsch willingly exposed himself to effective enemy fire again, by closing with the enemy in order to adjust fire and save the life of a wounded American teammate by dragging him to safety under fire.”
Kelsch continued to manage nearby air assets as he, the injured Ranger, and an injured Afghan commando prepared for exfil. During that time, Kelsch coordinated 105mm cannon fire from an overhead C-130 as well as air strikes from F-16 Fighting Falcons.
In a separate incident, Kelsch was serving with an interagency enabling team for a joint task force in Afghanistan. When his ground commander was wounded in an ambush, Kelsch placed himself between the enemy position and his wounded teammate, engaging the enemy with small arms fire.
While still being engaged by enemy personnel in immediate proximity, Sergeant Kelsch eliminated the threat and allowed his ground force commander to regain his bearing,” the Bronze Star citation reads.