Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, applauds CMSgt. Michael West, a Special Tactics operator with the 24th Special Operations Wing, during a Silver Star Medal ceremony Dec. 15, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Air Force photo by SrA. Ryan Conroy.
Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Brad Webb presented the Silver Star—the nation’s third highest award for valor in combat—to CMSgt. Michael West on Friday.
West, a Special Tactics operator with the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., was originally awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his actions in “two climactic battles” between Sept. 3-9, 2006, in Panjwai Village, Afghanistan, according to his Silver Star citation. However, his package was resubmitted for an upgrade as part of a Defense Department-wide review of medals earned in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“This ceremony is about the air commando culture epitomized in Special Tactics, and Special Tactics being epitomized in that chief right there,” said Webb during the ceremony at Hurlburt. “It’s a culture of willingly facing seemingly insurmountable problems; it’s about courage, endurance, wisdom. It’s figuring out [how] to solve problems and getting ‘er done. It’s about finding the way.”
In September 2006, West was a joint terminal attack controller embedded with a US Army Special Forces Team that came under attack while serving as a “blockade for a NATO ground operation” that was clearing an insurgent safe haven.
With “extraordinary bravery, technical skill, and complete disregard for his own safety” during two different battles, West repeatedly “exposed himself to direct and accurate enemy fire” while coordinating 88 fixed and rotary wing aircraft; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms; and medical evacuation assets, according to the citation. He called in 24,000 pounds of precision ordnance against “waves of enemy attacks,” resulting in the death of more than 500 enemy killed in action, according to the citation.
He is credited with “turning the tide of the battle” and saving the lives of 51 Special Forces soldiers and 33 coalition partners.
West is the 42nd Special Tactics operator to be awarded the Silver Star since Sept. 11, 2001.
“I am honored and humbled for the recognition, and I wish the [Special Forces] team guys were here to share this,” said West. “It was a great opportunity to work with a bunch of professionals, and I know that I have friends for life.”