Valor Friday

| August 14, 2020

SrA Bradley Smith

Bradley Smith was born in Little Rock, AR on September 11th, 1985 but raised in Troy, IL. Active with his Baptist church he played football at Triad High School. On his 16th birthday, 9/11 happened, leading him on a course of service. Enlisting into the US Air Force in 2006, he finished basic training as an honor graduate (in the top 10%).

Smith then went on to the training pipeline to become a TACP (pronounced Tac-Pee), short for Tactical Air Control Party. TACPs are special warfare airmen. They are tasked with the job of being on the ground, with the front line combat troops of all branches, and acting as the forward observer for close air support, artillery, and naval gunfire. Their job is to call in these deadly resources with precision accuracy. The role of the TACP places them as the primary Air Force liaison with ground forces moving through combat zones.

In the often confusing world of Air Force special tactics, a TACP serves with Army or Marine units and must be proficient in infantry tactics. Combat Controllers, airmen who also call in airstrikes, are placed with special operations forces like Army Special Forces units, SEAL teams, and Marine Force Recon. Combat Control Teams also secure enemy-held airfields and then serve as air traffic control as the airfield is then utilized by American follow-on forces.

The training pipeline for TACP is similar to other special operations forces in the US military. There’s about 26 weeks of training, spread across several locations, that an airman must go through after basic training before they get sent to their first unit. It’s not unusual for the training to take upwards of a year.

Once at their units, many TACP airmen go through numerous other DOD schools to hone their skills. Smith was no exception. TACP airmen attend the Army’s Airborne School to learn static line parachuting, but Smith also went through the Army’s Air Assault School and graduated #2 out of 90 in his class at the Army Pathfinder School. He even earned the German Military Proficiency Badge in gold, finishing top out of 80 competitors.

Bradley met his wife when he was in basic training. They married in 2008 and had a daughter, Chloe in 2009. Smith deployed to Afghanistan shortly after his daughter was born. He had been able to be there for Chloe’s birth and spent some time with her before shipping out in December 2009.

Supporting the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, of the 4th Infantry Division he operated out of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Wilson near Kandahar. 1/12 Infantry was operating in an area known as the “Heart of Darkness” as it was the birthplace of the Taliban. The area was well suited for insurgents with many battles being fought in dense grape fields that allowed them to hide.

Senior Airman (SrA) Smith was immediately put to use. He conducted many combat operations and called in airstrikes in support of his Army comrades. On January 3rd, 2010 he was on one such mission. One that would be his most fateful.

Smith and his 13-man platoon-sized element were conducting a dismounted patrol in the area of Badvan Village. They were suddenly ambushed, by both indirect fire and an IED explosion. The initial blasts caused one airman of the team and one soldier get blown into a nearby creek. Another soldier was missing.

Smith leapt into action. Moving from his position of cover, he ran to the creek through heavy enemy fire, and waded into waist-high water to rescue his wounded comrades. The soldier was already dead, the injured airman was blinded and disoriented. Smith moved the two men to the casualty collection point, and then started coordinating close air support.

Between tending to the wounded and returning enemy fire, SrA Smith coordinated the close air support (CAS). This included three formations of Army OH-58 Kiowa helicopters, expending all available munitions.

The man who was missing was found to have been thrown across the village. He would need to be recovered as well. They weren’t going to leave anyone behind. Smith volunteered immediately to go retrieve him. He and another soldier ran out of their covered position, into the open, through the creek, and across 200 meters to the downed man.

Smith and his partner were able to get safely to the dead soldier. Picking up the dismembered man, they ran back across the open, through the creek once more, and were nearing the rally point when another IED burst. The bomb found its target, taking both Smith and his cohort in the retrieval attempt down. Both were killed instantly.

Senior Airman Bradley Smith was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his gallantry in action. He left behind a wife and infant daughter.

Smith’s section chief, TSgt Bobby Cooper said he wasn’t surprised to hear of Smith’s valor. “It was Brad being Brad,” he said. “It was Brad doing what he loved to do, which was take care of people, look out for people, and always being the one to volunteer to get the task done.”

Since his passing, the TACP community has rallied around Smith’s widow Tiffany and their daughter Chloe, making them a part of the family. There’s a scholarship fund, an annual 5k run, and a street in his hometown in Smith’s name. The gym at which the TACPs train at the Medina Annex to JBSA has now been named after him as well.

For a man with such a short career, his awards and decorations make for an impressive array of fruit salad;

Bradley Smith’s Awards and Decorations

Category: Air Force, Silver Star, Valor, War Stories, We Remember

Comments (5)

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  1. AW1Ed says:

    Thanks again, Mason. Fair winds and following seas, Senior Airman Smith.

  2. 5th/77th FA says:

    Uncommon Valor is a Common Virtue with this one. BZ to SrA Bradley Smith! “…that such men lived.” “…no greater love…” A big BZ to his squadron mates in looking after his Widow and Orphaned Child. My granddaughter was born in ’09. I can picture Chloe as being just like her.

    Battery Gun Salute….PREPARE….FIRE!!!!

    A trifecta of stories about true Heroes this week. You’re spoiling us. Thanks Mason!

  3. Jay says:

    SrA Smith spent 4 years in the AF and accomplished more than most do in an entire career. He is missed and im glad the community has rallied around and continue to support and engage his family.

  4. ninja says:

    Thank you, Mason, for sharing Bradley Smith’s story.

    If I am not mistaken, I believe an Air Force Camp in Afghanistan was renamed in 2012 as “Camp Bradley Smith”:

    “New AF Camp Renamed In Honor of JTAC”

    https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/111827/new-af-camp-renamed-in-honor-of-jtac/

    ” The 451st Air Expeditionary Wing’s newly acquired Canada 9 compound will soon be renamed to honor a joint terminal attack controller who was posthumously awarded a Silver Star for his actions in January 2010.”

    “Recently approved by Kandahar Airfield officials, the compound was renamed Camp Bradley Smith in honor of Senior Airman Bradley Smith, who was awarded the Silver Star Nov. 9, 2011, for his actions while supporting operations near Kandahar, Afghanistan.”

    Salute. Never Forget.

  5. Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH B Woodman says:

    He was not a pilot, but this seems appropriate.

    “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;…”

    (damned allergies and onion fairies)