On Friday, Air Force Tech Sgt. Brian C. Claughsey will receive the Silver Star for valor for his actions in retaking the town of Kunduz from Taliban control in Afghanistan in September 2015.
Claughsey, a Combat Controller in the 21st Special Tactics was instrumental in helping a group of Special Operations forces retake Kunduz after over 500 Taliban militants had taken the city. At great risk to himself, he directed 17 close air support airstrikes from AC-130U gunships and F-16 aircraft.
He volunteered to ride in the lead convoy vehicle to assume close air support duties during the movement into Kunduz and immediately took control of an AC-130U when the troops were ambushed upon entering the city.
Claughsey directed precision fires on an enemy strong point to protect the convoy. During a second ambush, he coordinated friendly force locations with an overhead AC-130U while directing “danger close” strikes.
When a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device forced the convoy to stop in the middle of a four-way intersection, Claughsey suppressed the machine gun fire of six insurgents with his rifle while still coordinating with the AC-130U. He directed the crew on the plane to destroy the enemy fighters and helped shield the convoy from follow-on attacks as it made its way to the compound of the Kunduz provincial chief of police.
There, the American special operators and Afghan forces came under attack by Taliban mortar fire. According to the narrative of the battle, Claughsey maneuvered as close to the mortars’ origin as possible to pinpoint the location to an overhead F-16. He then controlled numerous strafing runs on the mortar position to eliminate the threat.
After helping to destroy the enemy mortar position, Claughsey moved to suppress enemy fire to allow another airman to direct another F-16 strike on the other side of the compound. He then stood exposed to enemy fire to hold a laser marker in position on an enemy building, directing two “danger close” strikes on the building from the F-16.
Claughsey’s unit, the 21st Special Tactics Squadron is one that works closely with the other services Special Operations units. Based at Pope Field at Ft. Bragg, it is the most decorated unit in modern Air Force history, with four of the nine Air Force Crosses awarded since 2001 and 11 Silver Stars earned by the squadron’s airmen.
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Featured photo: US Air Force