TSgt. Cam Kelsch is presented a Bronze Star Medal with Valor by Maj. Gen. Vincent Becklund, deputy commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, during a ceremony at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, in Pooler, Ga., on April 9, 2019. Air Force photo by SrA. Rachel Yates.
An Air Force tactical air control party airman on Tuesday received both the Silver Star and Bronze Star Medal with Valor for two separate missions in the same deployment to Afghanistan last year, where he is credited with saving members of the Army Special Forces team he was embedded with.
TSgt. Cam Kelsch, a TACP with the 17th Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Benning, Ga., was deployed with the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment on April 25, 2018, when his team—tasked with tracking down a high-value target during a night raid on an undisclosed area of Afghanistan—came under enemy fire.
Kelsch exposed himself to fire and called in strikes from an AC-130 circling above, which used its 40mm cannon to fire on targets within 40 meters of the team’s location.
“There’s one thing that Cam had that day that we can’t teach, instruct, or measure,” Maj. Gen. Vincent Becklund, deputy commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, said during a ceremony at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Pooler, Ga. “The reason we’re here today is because Cam distinguished himself on the battlefield that night through his courage, his selflessness, and his devotion to his teammates.”
During the battle, Kelsch was wounded as he dragged a fellow US service member to safety, saving his life. Despite the injury, he continued to call in strikes, with the AC-130U firing its 105mm cannon at more targets about 70 meters away, according to the citation.
He then called on an unidentified ISR aircraft to coordinate simultaneous 500-pound bombs from an F-16 and 105mm cannon blasts from the AC-130 to take out the final enemy location.
“What Cam did that day is nothing short of heroic,” Becklund said.
Kelsch also received the Bronze Star with Valor for an undated mission during which he placed himself between an enemy location and his team’s ground force commander, who was injured. With enemy in “immediate proximity,” Kelsch eliminated that threat and let his ground commander recover, according to the citation.