The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Blake O. Luttrell, United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action. Captain Luttrell distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous conduct in the face of the enemy of the United States as Joint Terminal Attack Controller, Task Force ONE PANTHER, Mazar E Sharif, Afghanistan, The Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. During a clearing operation on 9 January 2012, Captain Luttrell's partnered element of Afghan Commandos became overwhelmed by intense small arms fire from hardened insurgents fighting from fortified positions within caves. The initial engagement resulted in two Commando casualties, including one who died immediately from his wounds. Captain Luttrell maneuvered with his element through heavy enemy fire to recover the casualties. Captain Luttrell calmly identified enemy positions and provided precise terminal guidance to supporting air weapons teams to neutralize the enemy fortifications by multiple air-to-ground engagements as the assault force continued to advance. The element recovered the wounded commandos as enemy fire focused on the maneuvering assault force. Captain Luttrell continued to control air weapons team fires to neutralize enemy positions within the cave complex to cover the element. The devastating effect of the precision fires on the enemy created a momentary lull and enabled the assault force to move the casualties to a safe location for extraction. Captain Luttrell subsequently directed an inbound medical evacuation helicopter through arduous terrain to make a safe landing to evacuate the friendly casualties, and then returned to continue the assault. The assault force continued maneuvering on the enemy fortifications, and cleared a compound to take cover from intensifying enemy small arms fire to prepare for a final assault. When the Medic within his element became critically wounded while protecting the assault force and women and children found near the enemy position, Captain Luttrell deployed a smoke grenade into the main cave fortifications, returned fire, and courageously moved through continued incoming fire to assist his comrade. Captain Luttrell continued to engage the enemy from extremely close range as he assisted with moving his critically wounded teammate behind a covered position to begin medically treating him. Captain Luttrell again directed the medical evacuation helicopter to extract the critically wounded Medic, and immediately returned to continue the assault. Captain Luttrell quickly ensured all members of the assault force remained in covered positions and immediately provided terminal guidance for a decisive, precision strike by supporting close air support platforms to neutralize the fortified enemy. The assault force subsequently repositioned reinforcement to assist with the assault to destroy the remaining enemy within the cave complex. Captain Luttrell courageously took the fight to the enemy in the face of extreme danger. Captain Luttrell's actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan, and the United States Army.

On January 9, 2012, Captain Blake Luttrell, a special tactics officer, and his element were conducting a helicopter assault in Afghanistan to capture a known insurgent and improvised explosive device facilitator. Captain Luttrell’s element was ambushed by a battle-hardened group of insurgents located 100 meters away. As Captain Luttrell coordinated Army attack helicopters overhead, two Afghan commandos were fatally shot. Moments later, another Afghan commando received a fatal gunshot wound to the torso. In response, Captain Luttrell and a teammate moved forward to pinpoint the enemy while taking direct, accurate fire.

Captain Luttrell then directed Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to suppress the enemy cave complex, which they did with 100 rounds of 30-millimeter shells and four thermobaric hellfire missiles. Captain Luttrell and his element continued to maneuver under hostile fire towards the fortified enemy position, and while clearing a nearby building, his element was attacked by small arms fire from a cave less than five feet away. As one Special Forces Soldier moved around a corner to return fire, he was shot at point-blank range, knocked to the ground, and was subsequently shot again multiple times. Without hesitation, Captain Luttrell aggressively engaged the enemy with his automatic weapon, deployed smoke into the cave entrance, and courageously moved forward despite taking heavy fire. While enemy rounds impacted all around him, he pulled the wounded Soldier from the cave entrance and out of the line of fire.

Captain Luttrell then administered lifesaving treatment to the wounded Soldier by placing tourniquets on both legs. As he conducted first aid, his teammates suppressed the threat, enabling the entire element to maneuver out of the kill zone. Captain Luttrell then coordinated a show of force with attack helicopters and established a helicopter landing zone 200 meters south of the cave to evacuate the wounded Soldier. Once the Soldier was successfully extracted, Captain Luttrell pushed all friendly elements to a safe distance and controlled an Air Force B-1 bomber that dropped a 2,000-pound bomb, destroying the cave and ending the enemy resistance.

Captain Luttrell’s terminal attack control measures resulted in the deaths of four enemy fighters. During the entire engagement, Captain Luttrell remained under intense enemy fire; yet, epitomizing true heroics, he never wavered during the heat of battle. For his actions, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal.

Special Tactics Airmen earn Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

When the critical moment came there was courage.

There was courage from an Airman who moved into the line of fire to retrieve bodies of fallen Afghan commandos.

One Airman risked sniper fire to call in air support and another Airman continued to fight despite shrapnel wounds from a hand grenade.

Three Air Force Special Operations Command combat controllers from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron were recognized for actions in deployed locations during a medals ceremony at Pope Field, N.C., Sept. 25.

Capt. Blake Luttrell earned the Silver Star. Staff Sgt. Daniel Resendez earned the Bronze Star with Valor, and Staff Sgt. Jordan Killam received the Purple Heart.

"These decorations were earned years in advance through long physical, mental and technical training pipelines; across experiences from previous deployments and from lessons passed on by the men who bore the standards before you," said Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, the AFSOC commander .

Lutrell 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 Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, January 2012.

When his clearing operation team came under intense fire from insurgents in a cave compound, two Afghan commandos were shot. Lutrell recovered the casualties while directing air power against the enemy.

After a medical evacuation, the team medic was critically wounded while protecting his teammates and women and children near the enemy stronghold.

Luttrell responded by throwing a smoke grenade into the caves the enemy was firing from. He moved in front of the cave to pull the medic to a location where another medevac helicopter landed to extract the medic from the fight.

Resendez 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 Nuristan province, Afghanistan, May 2011.

As the joint terminal attack controller for an Army special forces and Afghan commando team, Resendez controlled close air support to eliminate insurgents firing on the clearing operation.

Resendez controlled the release of a 500-pound bomb in response to heavy mortar, machine gun, sniper and small-arms fire.

Resendez exposed himself to sniper fire, which missed his head by two feet, to gain target information crucial to destroying an enemy position. He controlled danger-close strafe runs on the enemy and marked an extraction zone for coalition wounded and casualities.

Killam was presented the Purple Heart, the nation's oldest military authorization, for shrapnel wounds incurred from an enemy hand grenade.

Though these quiet professionals may shirk the limelight, there is value in recognizing these men up front, special tactics leaders said. Medals ceremonies not only recognize courageous actions but provide an example for the younger generation of secial tactics Airmen.

They also provide an opportunity for families to see what their son, father or nephew do on a routine basis.

"Our men signed up to do the mission," Col. Robert Armfield, the 24th Special Operations Wing commander. "They love to do the mission and go downrange. But the families here are their real source of strength, and we thank them for coming."

Lt. Col. Spencer Cocanour, the commander of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, said he is proud to lead a group of men who consistently exceed standards in training and downrange.

Combat controllers complete a two-year pipeline as a minimum standard to enter their unit, Cocanour said. From that point, it takes about another year to earn the joint terminal attack control qualification which enables them to control close air support.

"In essence, these guys are training for three years just to go to the fight," Cocanour said. "Every day they have to prove themselves. These guys met the standards, exceeded the standards and continue to excel. And you see their work ethic being displayed right here when they're being decorated."

The single most decorated career field in the Air Force, special tactics has amassed five Air Force Crosses, 30 Silver Stars, 550 Bronze Stars and 97 Purple Hearts.