Master Sergeant Michael West is a Combat Controller qualified and very experienced in Joint Terminal Attack Control (JTAC) and CloseAir Support (CAS). In September, 2006, he was attached to one of several Army Special Forcesteams operating near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Sergeant West’s team leader wanted to occupy a dominant hill that offered a commanding view of the surrounding areas. As another Coalition team pushed towards the hill, they came under heavy attack and lost radio communications. Sergeant West had been monitoring the frequency and took over. He positively identified the friendly personnel and the enemy fighting positions and called in close air support. He directed B-1B bombers to destroy several buildings where ACM were sheltered.  He then cleared several A-10s for multiple strafing passes against enemy positions. He simultaneously worked with a Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) overhead to scan for more targets. His efforts saved the lives of his teammates and enable the team to seize the high ground.

His team was on a reconnaissance mission supporting a larger Coalition forces offensive designed to clear Panjaway Valley of all Anti-Coalition militants (ACM). Intelligence estimated 800-1000 ACM in the district, threatening Kandahar’s security.

This opening sequence would lead to a week-long battle for the valley and surrounding terrain. During this time, Sergeant West and two of his JTAC teammates were on the hill, working multiple aircraft, orchestrated by Sergeant West’s battlefield awareness and ingenuity for dividing airspace and platforms. The air support included French, British, Dutch, and American fighters, bombers, attack helicopters, AC-130H gunships,and UAVs. In concert with their teams’ ground maneuvers, they tirelessly engaged the enemy with airpower until the aircraft needed to refuel or rearm.

Throughout the Coalition operation, Sergeant West called in MEDEVACs, controlled resupply airdrops for ammo, food, and water, and coordinated 130 CAS missions including 15 separatetroops-in-contact missions.

The Coalition forces achieved decisive victories throughout the district regaining control of the area and killing an estimated 750 enemy combatants. Sergeant West’smasterful situational awareness and precise employment of Intelligence, Surveillanceand Reconnaissance and CAS assets were vital to the battle's overall success.

AFSOC Outstanding Airmen of the Year

Master Sgt. Mike West, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, is a Combat Controller and was flight superintendent for a 25-man Combat Control Team, where he trained Airmen to prepare them for combat.

Sergeant West was a key player in one of the busiest special tactics combat deployments, with more than 280 combat missions.

Special Operators demonstrate precision and skill at NASCAR

By:  Bonita Riddley

U.S. Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office

ATLANTA  (USASOC News Service, March, 18 2007)  Bringing the crowds to a thunderous applause were the Special Operators from the U.S. Special Operations Command in a pre-race demonstration of SOF Infiltration techniques at NASCAR’s Kobalt Tools 500. 

In what one might think may be a tradition at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR fans gathered not only to cheer on their favorite driver, but also to pay honor to the men and women of the Special Operations community. 

The U.S. Special Operations Command commander, Gen. Bryan D. Brown talked with  the special operators before the demonstration.  “For a very short period of time here, we’re going to try and let people know something about the Special Operations Command.”

NASCAR driver Bobby Labonte shakes hands with Air Force Master Sgt. Michael R. West, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron and Army Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Ragan, 75th Ranger Regimen , before the start of the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. 

Brown thanked the troops for their hard work both here and on the battlefield.

“Because this type of battlefield that we’re all facing today, you guys are the critical guys and really for the first time in our life the real tip of the spear,” said Brown.  “Thank you.”

Present were representatives from all four service components of USSOCOM to include the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.; U.S Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.; U.S. Navy Special Warfare Command, Coronado, Calif. and the U.S. Marine Corps Force Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, N.C.  USSOCOM is based at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

It was evident from the cheers that NASCAR fans are proud of their service members as the Special Operators entered the infield of the Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Fans stood to their feet as they rallied in support of the Special Operators whose display of precision and skill is known throughout the military community.    

“I think they’re very proud of their military forces -- they should be,” said Gen. Robert W. Wagner, commander, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. 

“To let them get out here today and let them see some of the skills and capabilities that they have is reassuring for the American public and it’s reassuring for the military to know the close repor and respect they have for one another,” Wagner said.

Wagner compared the teamwork of NASCAR to that of our armed services.

 “When you watch the NASCAR race, what you see are teams of people that work extraordinarily well, the match between the people and their equipment,” said Wagner.  How successful they are on the race day, is similar to the teamwork that you see within the military.”

NASCAR driver Kurt Busch shakes hands with Army Sgt. Edward Hull, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) and Air Force Master Sgt. Michael R. West, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, before the start of the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Skill coupled with teamwork is why the military is successful says Wagner.

“…what makes the military successful are the highly skilled dedicated people.  And so, it is an interesting  match between

 the skill and teamwork that make the military successful, that which makes NASCAR successful,” he concluded.

Bringing the crowd to their feet first, were the Black Daggers, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command's Parachute Demonstration Team.  They opened the pre-race pageantry demonstrating both tactical and precision high-altitude, low-opening parachute jumps.

Showing the fans how they secure an area, the four of the Daggers positioned themselves as if to secure a landing zone.  With the infield now “secured,” a UH60 Black Hawk helicopter from the USASOC Flight Detachment touched down offloading the USSOCOM and USASOC commanders.

Highlighting the capabilities and precision of the special operators, the Speedway’s official pace car was delivered in the rear of a MH-47E Chinook helicopter that was decorated with the Army-sponsored racecar’s “01.” 

As the pace car, embellished with the USSOCOM’s 20th Anniversary emblem, made its way off of the Chinook, thousands of cheering NASCAR fans rose to their feet.  This special delivery is indicative of a mission the pilots and crew of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) do routinely in several areas of operations.

Moments later, eight Special Operations warriors entered the Speedway aboard two MH-6 Little Bird helicopters.  Four more SOF warriors and Fox Sports NASCAR analyst, Jeff Hammond, arrived beneath a MH60 Black Hawk rigged in special patrol infiltration exfiltration system gear known as SPIES. SPIES is a method used to insert or extract an individual or small numbers of individuals into an area

Following the insertion, the SOF Warriors took a parade lap around the track before joining General Brown on center stage.  After introductions, each of the NASCAR drivers exited the stage greeting the SOF warriors.  The last twelve drivers each invited a SOF Warrior to join them on another parade lap around the track.

The final SOF involvement in the pre-race pageantry was USASOC’s Chief Warrant Officer Charlie King singing “God Bless America” and a four-ship helicopter fly-by at the conclusion of the national anthem.

Demonstrations like these are important to both the American people and the servicemember according to both leaders and servicemen in the Special Operations community.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Timothy C. Hoye, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, greets Gen. Byron "Doug" Brown, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command during the pre-race festivities at the Atlanta Motor Speedway prior to the start of the Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR race.

“It is important to show the American public, who don't see us every day throughout the United States, what we are about,” said Warrant Officer James A. Mayernik, assistant detachment commander, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N. C.

“I have the knowledge that the American people support us truly, and are behind us 100 percent.  Just in the short time that I’ve been here I can see that,” said Mayernik.

“I’m taking away the fact the we have the support of the people,” said Staff Sgt. Elisha Bremmer, Special Forces medical sergeant, 3rd Bn., 7th SFG.

Also present were members of the Army Accessions Command displaying the U.S. Army Special Operations Adventure Van.  NASCAR fans were able to simulate parachuting or flying an MH-6 Little Bird.  Other simulators are also available for fans to experience.

Two Georgian-based Gold Star families were also present for today’s events.  Each had lost a loved one who served their country while assigned to the Army Special Operations Command.

SOF warriors representing the USASOC in today’s events were Staff Sgt. Elisha Bremmer and Warrant Officer James A. Mayernik of 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne); Staff Sgt. Adam Quick and Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Ragan, Ranger Operations Company, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; Sgt. Edward A. Hull, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky.; Sgt 1st Class Hiruy H. Gemechu, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C. and Sgt. Charles P. Foote,  9th Battalion, 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.
Also representing the special operations community were Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Hoye and Master Sgt. Michael R. West, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Staff Sgt. Will Welch, 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Special Operators Second Class Milton Santillanes and Jason Tompsett from Naval Special Warfare Command’s Seal Team 8, Little Creek, Va.

The aircraft demonstrating precision and skill were from the 160th SOAR.