An ambush opened on the American patrol from just 35 feet away in hostile Taliban territory.
Enemy fire seemed to rain down on Air Staff Sgt. Adam Krueger and the team of special operators he supported from all directions.
Those insurgents got the jump on the Joint Base Lewis-McChord airman and his team that day, but they didn’t win the battle.
Over a 12-hour firefight, Krueger called in “danger close” air strikes that decimated the enemy positions. His patrol did not suffer any fatal casualties.
Krueger “took care of us that day,” one of the special operators recently told an Air Force writer.
Krueger’s heroism on that May 2010 mission earned him the military’s third-highest honor for valor in combat, the Silver Star. He received it at a ceremony last week led by the Air Force’s top Special Operations commander, Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel.
Krueger was not the only member of his unit, the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron, to receive commendations from Fiel.
Another 12 airmen from the Lewis-McChord Air Force unit that partners with Marine and Army infantrymen on ground patrols received Bronze Stars, the military’s fourth-highest honor.
“Like many, the airmen’s willingness to serve at the tip of the spear, directly going into harm’s way to attack the enemy time after time, represents the best of America,” said Col. Robert Armfield, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing.
Krueger received his commendation for a mission on which he and Senior Airman Zachary Jacobs joined a patrol composed of special operators and conventional Army soldiers. They were on an assignment to check out a suspected Taliban village in northern Afghanistan.
Enemy fighters surprised the patrol by opening fire from entrenched positions at close distances, pinning down Krueger and the special operators.
They returned fire as Krueger and Jacobs helped guide F-15 jets on strafing runs, as well as identifying locations for jets to drop four 500-pound bombs and four 2,000 pound bombs, according to an account of the patrol written by Air Force Maj. Aaron Clark and Lt. Col. Brad Reeves.
Krueger’s directions helped create a safe space to rescue two wounded soldiers and to mark a landing zone for a medical evacuation helicopter.
The Air Force estimated that the strikes saved 18 Americans and 22 Afghan soldiers, and helped kill 50 Taliban fighters.
The other honorees from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron were:
Bronze Star with Valor recipients: Master Sgt. Douglas Neville; Tech. Sgt. Michael Orlando; Staff Sgt. Joshua Busch; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Roberts; Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Salazar; Staff Sgt. Michael Wilhelm.
Bronze Star recipients: Capt. Joshua Barlow; Tech. Sgt. Michael A. Kurta; Tech. Sgt. Matthew McKenna; Senior Airman Benjamin De Boer; Senior Airman Christopher Kagan; Senior Airman John Moyle.Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/military