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Bronze Stars, Purple Heart awarded to Airmen

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla -- Two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart were awarded to three combat controllers from the 720th Operations Support Squadron at the 20th Special Operations Squadron auditorium here Friday.

Tech. Sgt. Ryan Stanhope and Staff. Sgt. David Overton were both presented with Bronze Stars, and Tech. Sgt. Matthew Scheleich received a Purple Heart at the recognition ceremony.

“I very much appreciate what you do,” said Col. Kenneth Rodriguez, 720th Special Tactics Group commander, during the ceremony. “We are in the business of training men for our future. We are responsible for putting superbly trained men on the battlefield. You all are doing a fantastic job and I am very proud of all of you.”

Sergeant Stanhope served as the primary combat controller assigned to a joint task force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While he was assigned to a reconnaissance mission, his convoy was ambushed and he coordinated critical medical evacuation assets and requested close air support while covering fire for a returning element. After the convoy reached a safe distance, he controlled air assets to quickly evacuate the casualties, which resulted in saving the lives of two of his fellow teammates.

"At the time of the vehicle ambush I was honestly scared, but because of all the training I have received over the years I knew exactly what I needed to do to break contact, return fire, get air support and call for a medevac," said Sergeant Stanhope. "One piece of advice I can offer is always be prepared for the worst case scenario, you never know when it's going to hit the fan."

Sergeant Overton was attached to an Army Special Forces operational detachment, which involved him in 21 combat patrols.

During one such patrol, he was responsible for vectoring a flight of helicopters onto engaging enemy forces which lead to the capture of 35 anti-coalition militias, including a high-value target.

“I felt that my teammates were counting on me to implement what I have been taught and I didn’t want to let them down,” said Sergeant Overton.
On another patrol, Sergeant Overton and his team were engaged by direct enemy fire.
The attacks eventually neutralized, which allowed for his team to withdraw enemy fire.

He then volunteered to return to the scene to recover sensitive information that had been left behind.

“We are making a significant impact on a very, very evil section of the world and they are being taken down,” said Colonel Rodriguez. “There is a lot of work with very little resources, it’s a hard job and I very much appreciate what you do for your men and for us”.

“I am extremely honored to have been present for the ceremony recognizing their accomplishments and sacrifices,” said Lt. Col. David Horwitz, 720th OSS commander.

“Their heroic and selfless deeds are indicative of the caliber of forces we have in Air Force Special Ops Command and are a testament to the will and perseverance of the American people in the Global War on Terrorism.”