by 1st Lt. Jerred Moon
24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
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.
"In AFSOC we are all about deploying," said AFSOC commander Lt. Gen.
Eric Fiel. "Every day we train to fight and these guys are responsible
to protect our families; our sons and daughters. It's amazing."
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
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.
"This is a great opportunity for us to recognize our Special Tactics
Airmen and their courageous actions downrange," said 24th Special
Operations Vice Wing Commander Col. Eric Ray. "It is also great to see
the family and friends who provide unwavering support for our warriors.
It's these spouses, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters and other
family members whose continued sacrifices are seldom seen and never
recognized, but are critical to our success on the battlefield."
With six Air Force Crosses, 30 Silver Stars and hundreds of Bronze
Stars, the 24th Special Operations Wing is the most decorated Air Force
unit since the end of the Vietnam War. This includes participation in
conflicts ranging from Operation Just Cause in Panama to actions in
Somalia, more famously coined by Hollywood as "Black Hawk Down," as well
as Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.