Special Tactics Airmen Earn 50 Medals
It's not often most of the airmen of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron are in one place.
The Air Force special operators are deployed for nearly half the year every 10 months, attaching themselves to small groups of Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine Corps critical skills operators.
Even when not deployed, the airmen are often strewn across the country for training.
But the squadron took advantage of a rare lull Tuesday to honor some of their own at Pope Field.
Thirty-nine airmen were recognized with more than 50 medals.
Most of those medals were related to the squadron's most recent deployment from mid-November to May, where they served in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Among the awards were five Bronze Stars, including one for the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Spencer C. Cocanour.
Cocanour said the airmen included combat controllers, tactical air control party operators and various support airmen.
The airmen call in airstrikes, secure airfields and provide reconnaissance. Individuals are often assigned to small units of other special operations troops.
Cocanour praised the men and women for their hard work and dedication, whether they were calling in airstrikes on combat patrols or ensuring that a $30,000 radio found its way to a fellow airman across the country.
"They were at 50 sites across Afghanistan," Cocanour said. "And these were some of the last folks in Iraq."
"They went above and beyond the call of duty," he said.
In addition to the Bronze Stars, airmen also were recognized with Defense Meritorious Service Medals, Air Force Commendation Medals, Army Commendation Medals, Air Force Achievement Medals and Air Force Combat Action Medals.
The ceremony took place at the 21st Special Tactics Squadron headquarters.
Col. Kurt Buller, commander of the 720th Special Tactics Group, addressed the airmen during the ceremony.
Buller, former commander of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, praised the airmen for their readiness to fight and deploy often.
It was up to them, Buller said while waving a photograph of his two sons, Drew and Brock, to end the fight against the Taliban so their own children don't have to get involved.
"I don't want them to have to fight this fight," Buller said. ". I don't want Drew and Brock to have to fight the Taliban. I want to kick (the Taliban) in the teeth."
"Today is a celebration," he said. "Tomorrow . we get ready to go again."