With a staggering total of 6 Air Force Crosses, 30 Silver Stars, and hundreds of Bronze stars, the 24th Special Operations Wing of the USAF is easily the most highly decorated unit of the Air Force in the post-Vietnam era. In a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida, 4 Airmen of the 24th SOW recently added to that total. Congratulations to Combat Controllers Michael Blout, Nathan Wright, PJ Phillip Armstrong, and TACP Stephen Merlics for an outstanding job.  Well done, and HOOYAH. -BK

3/14/2014 – HURLBURT FIELD, Fla — Four Special Tactics Airmen from Air Force Special Operations Command were recognized with medals for actions downrange in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., March 14.

Tech Sgt. Michael Blout, a Combat Controller, earned the Silver Star Medal; Staff Sgt. Stephan Merlics, a Tactical Air Control party member, earned the Bronze Star with Valor; Airman 1st Class Philip Armstrong, a Special Tactics Pararescueman, received the Purple Heart Medal, and Senior Airman Nathan Wright, a Combat Controller, earned the Combat Action Medal. All four Airmen are assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field.

Blout was presented the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest combat military decoration, for gallantry in action against an enemy of the U.S. in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, October 2012.

When he received radio traffic indicating an Army Special Forces teammate required immediate medical attention after sustaining wounds from an enemy ambush, Blout sprinted one mile toward the sound of enemy fire to assist his comrade.

While exchanging direct fire with the enemy, he orchestrated close air support to keep the enemy at bay and coordinated for the arrival of medical evacuation aircraft.

Blout then placed himself between the landing zone and the enemy and urged his teammates forward, screening the landing and enabling the evacuation of friendly forces.

Merlics received the Bronze Star with Valor, the nation’s fourth highest combat military decoration, for heroism in action against an enemy of the U.S. in Afghanistan, from September 2012 to March 2013.

He conducted 48 combat missions with partnered Afghan forces and controlled 263 attack, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

His bravery was displayed during a reconnaissance patrol when his team came under direct fire from fortified enemy positions. Disregarding the danger he left cover in order to positively identify enemy positions.

As Merlics was shot at he returned fire on the enemy while simultaneously coordinating medical evacuation assets and directing air strikes onto enemy positions.

Armstrong was presented the Purple Heart, the nation’s oldest military authorization, for wounds received in action, May 2013.

Wright was also presented the Air Force Combat Action Medal for active participation in combat, having been under direct and hostile fire or physically engaging hostile forces with direct lethal fire.