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Silver Star, Purple Heart bestowed to base hero

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Tech. Sgt. Bradley Reilly, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for his actions in Afghanistan during a ceremony at the Hurlburt Field Air Park April 11.

Gen. Michael Wooley, Air Force Special Operations Command commander, presented the medals to Sergeant Reilly, exactly one year after surviving a grueling firefight and saving a teammate’s life in Afghanistan.

Sergeant Reilly was awarded the medals for his medical expertise, marksmanship skills, air traffic control experience and saving a teammates life.

“It’s an auspicious day for valorous actions,” said Lt. Col. Bradley Thompson, commander of the 23rd STS. “Brad is the epitome of the quiet professional.”

Assigned to an operational detachment, Sergeant Reilly was part of a quick-response force that responded to an ambush by the Anti Coalition Militia. Their target was Gen. Khil Baz, the new border battalion commander.

Two helicopters, each carrying 10 men, headed into the mountains.

“We pretty much assumed it would be over by the time we got there,” said Sergeant Reilly. “Due to the timing, we didn’t expect to find a firefight.”

After locating and securing the safety of General Baz, the teams obtained information on the enemy and searched for the insurgents.

One of the helicopters landed and took fire. The enemy was 30-50 feet higher than the team, but the troops fought their way to the top.

After securing the area, Sergeant Reilly and Army Special Forces Master Sgt. Paul Cooper noticed more enemy fire coming from below them.

While advancing in the new direction of fire, Sergeant Reilly was shot in the foot and Sergeant Cooper in both legs.

They took cover behind a tree where Sergeant Reilly tried to stop the bleeding in Sergeant Cooper’s legs. At the same time he reloaded the guns, returned fire and called for air support. 

“I told the helicopters ‘if you can see us, then get in here’,” said Sergeant Reilly.

Army Sergeant First Class Jubal Day, a Special Forces medic, went down the mountain to aid the two injured men.

“I was relieved to see him,” said Sergeant Reilly. “That’s where the real life-saving got done.” 

The call was made for a medical evacuation, but there was still heavy enemy fire on the hill. 

“One of the helicopter pilots told us that the enemy was coming up the side at us,” said Sergeant Cooper. “The pilot told Sergeant Reilly to put them (the helicopter) between us and the enemy. So he did.”

“I looked up to see both gunners standing straight up, firing down at the enemy,” Sergeant Reilly said.

“That act alone helped us out a lot.”

Army Capt. Brian Dowling, Special Forces team leader, instructed the teams to get down the hill and clear the path for the medevac helicopter.

“Just before the helicopter came into range, we opened fire for five minutes,” said Captain Dowling. “It allowed the helicopter to fast rope in a medic and a stretcher to retrieve the men.” 

The injured men returned to the base and were stabilized before flying to other bases for additional medical care.

Recovered from his injuries, Sergeant Reilly is ready to go out there and do it again.