HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. - A Combat
Controller, who is now charged
with helping fill the special tactics ranks, was presented with two
Bronze Stars with valor during a ceremony held recently at Lackland Air
Force Base, Texas.
Master Sgt. Ken Huhman, a special tactics recruiter
Antonio, received the medals for his actions during a 2007 deployment
to Afghanistan while assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at
Hurlburt Field, Fla.
One took place Sept. 5 and 6, 2007, while his team was
Taliban-controlled area of the province searching for stolen Afghan
National Police vehicles.
the special tactics teams, and all our Combat Controllers who are
embedded, is just immeasurable," said Brig. Gen. A.J. Stewart, Air
Force Recruiting Service commander, after he presented the medals to
Sergeant Huhman. "What they are able to do, and do it under fire in the
mountains of Afghanistan, is amazing."
Sergeant Huhman was attached to an Army Special Forces Operational
Detachment-Alpha, or ODA. The special operations team conducted
multiple combat reconnaissance patrols throughout Afghanistan's
volatile Kandahar province.
Huhman's second deployment to the country. The Combat Controller, who
was a force reconnaissance Marine before joining the Air Force in 1996,
also has a tour in Iraq to his credit.
became a Combat Controller was for the mission opportunities," Sergeant
"mission opportunities" during this deployment landed Sergeant Huhman
When the team reached the target, they "disturbed a
nest," Sergeant Huhman said.
They were attacked by small-arms and machine gun
rocket-propelled grenades from two directions. The team split up to
maneuver around the enemy threat, with Sergeant Huhman's team taking
cover behind a mud wall.
Using his joint terminal attack control skills, the
Combat Controller directed a flight of F-15E Strike Eagles to drop two
500-pound bombs 50 meters from his position. The "danger close" drops
successfully eliminating enemy fighters embedded on a hilltop.
Sergeant Huhman, repeatedly exposing himself to
continued to call in close-air support for the team and coordinated a
route allowing them to escape from the valley. In total, he directed
the release of more than 8,000 pounds of ordnance and controlled six
different attack and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
aircraft during the 26-hour ordeal.
About two months later, Sergeant Huhman earned
Star with valor for a second firefight with Taliban militants.
the barrage of gunfire and length of the battle, the
combat veteran maintained his composure and killed 41 enemy fighters,
all without losing a single American life.
combat control and all the responsibilities you have,
all you have time to do is think about what happens next," Sergeant
Huhman said. "You're just worried about making sure your team is safe
and thinking about what you do next to keep them safe."
approach enabled Sergeant Huhman to successfully employ
close-air support even after his GPS broke in the middle of the battle,
forcing him to revert to other, less technological techniques.
In November 2007, the special operations team was
reconnaissance on a known enemy strongpoint. Using ISR assets, Sergeant
Huhman was able to identify seven Taliban fighters setting up a mortar
position. He called for air support and took out the enemy before they
could attack coalition forces.
A while later, the convoy again found itself in a
firefight as they moved through the terrain. Sergeant Huhman was
temporarily blinded when a round impacted near his position.
However, he wasn't concerned about his own life.
"At the time I was just worried about the team,"
Huhman said. "Once I couldn't see, I used the aircraft as my eyes to
make sure they could see the convoy. I let them know I didn't have
visual and that I had to rely on them."
The Combat Controller regained his site just in
time to see a
Taliban fighter aiming his RPG launcher at the convoy.
"He popped out of a doorway and dialed in on the
Sergeant Huhman said.
Sergeant Huhman fired off one 84mm rifle shot at
before reengaging with his M-4 rifle.
He directed gun runs from support aircraft as the
through the barrage of enemy fire toward their objective. Once there,
Sergeant Huhman continued to identify and destroy enemy fighting
positions throughout the village. In total, he spent 11 hours directing
close-air support, completely emptying the ammunition on two F/A-18
Hornets and one AC-130 gunship.
Later that night, the team used intelligence assets
identify a meeting of high-level Taliban leaders in a nearby cave.
Sergeant Huhman called in yet another precision airstrike that launched
two 500-pound bombs and one Hellfire missile, eliminating the enemy.
"After we took out those guys, nothing happened in
for six months," Sergeant Huhman said.
"They're life savers," General Stewart said of
Combat Controllers such as Sergeant Huhman. "Had it not been for the
support he was able to call in, then perhaps things (would have turned)
out differently in those situations."
But the quiet professional is not quick to tout his
"I was just one of the many guys doing his job," he
was in the right place at the right time. Any controller in that
position would have done the same things."
However, Sergeant Huhman says he is willing to tell
combat control recruits his story. He is one of 12 special tactics
Airmen from the Air Force Special Operations Training Center embedded
with recruiting units throughout the country.
According to one of Sergeant Huhman's former
young men should listen up.
"He's definitely walked the walk," said Capt. Steve
who was Sergeant Huhman's team leader at the 23rd STS. "Recruits are
going to listen to what he has to say."