During one engagement, SSgt Sean Harvell deliberately exposed his position so he could coordinate close air support during an intense 23-hour firefight. In another, when Taliban forces attacked his team as they responded to a US helicopter crash, Harvell was wounded and knocked unconscious, but he recovered, returning fire and directing danger-close CAS.






Staff Sergeant Sean R. Harvell distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United States near Garm Ab Village and Kajaki Sofia, Afghanistan on 8 May 2007 and 30 May 2007. During this period, while performing the duties as a Combat Controller, 22d Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, 1st Expeditionary Special Operations Group, Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component, Special Operations Command Central in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Sergeant Harvell selflessly and conspicuously risked his life during two engagements while under heavy enemy fire to establish contact with fighter aircraft and direct the surgical employment of lethal air power against an overwhelming enemy; In the first engagement, Sergeant Harvell and his team Brisked destruction from a relentless enemy attack and subsequent ambush while on reconnaissance patrol. Sergeant Harvell, cognizant of his team's precarious situation and increasing casualties in the face of debilitating enemy attacks, deliberately exposed his position to orchestrate close air support, enable an HH-60 medical evacuation and cover the exfdtratioh of his nine-vehicle convoy and team over a ten-hour period. Completely enveloped by enemy fire and at great personal risk, he calmly directed air attacks, destroying multiple Taliban positions arid saving the lives of his teammates. Later, in the middle of a devastating ambush, he again exposed himself to heavy enemy fire from as close as five meters and directed F-18 strafing runs within a mere 45 feet of his position to rout enemy insurgents. On 30 May 2007, while attempting the recovery of a downed CH-47 helicopter and United States Army aircrew, he was wounded and knocked unconscious by a rocket propelled grenade fired by Taliban militants in a daring daylight ambush. Regaining consciousness and bleeding from multiple wounds, Sergeant Harvell engaged Taliban fighters with his personal M-4 carbine, M-12 shotgun and then grenades while simultaneously directing deadly, danger-close air attacks onto the enemy, allowing his convoy to break contact. Disregarding medical assistance, Sergeant Harvell continued to direct AC-130 and AH-64 helicopter attacks On the insurgent force, effectively neutralizing all enemy threats to his team and allowing another special operations team to recover the remains of all service members and sensitive equipment from the crash site. During these two days of fierce fighting, his expertise in the employment of air power and selfless service resulted in the death of 212 enemy combatants and release of 18,000 pounds of aviation ordinance. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Harvell has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Staff Sergeant Sean R. Harvell distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United States near Kherwaray Village, Afghanistan on 25 July 2007. On this date, while performing duties as a Combat Controller, 22d Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, 1st Expeditionary Special Operations Group, Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component, Special Operations Command Central in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Sergeant Harvell and his Army Special Forces team became engaged in a savage eight-hour firefight with Taliban forces to negate an enemy ambush by clearing a compound along the Helmand River. Leading a small joint team into a compound with a fortified enemy position, Sergeant Harvell repeatedly placed himself in harm's way with little regard for his own safety. On the initial breach, he and his Marine Corps teammate engaged and killed an insurgent who was laying-in-wait from a covered position. Sergeant Harvell and his teammate then moved to another covered position to engage additional enemy combatants^ whereupon Sergeant Harvell again risked his life sprinting through a fatal funnel of fire to gain a dominant attack position, keeping the enemy pinned inside a room and within the compound's perimeter. Twice, while taking hellish, direct machine-gun fire from just thirty feet away, he exposed himself and shot a rocket propelled grenade to clear the enemy occupied room, but without immediate result. Sergeant Harvell then maneuvered inside the compound with three teammates; positioning himself below the window the Taliban were firing from. Crouching under the window, he pulled the pin on a grenade and delayed two seconds before throwing it through the opening, killing another insurgent and abating enemy fire. Finally, as Taliban reinforcements arrived, Sergeant Harvell and his team withdrew from the compound; Providing covering fire for his teammates as they exited, Sergeant Harvell was the last to leave. As he sprinted across the open yard, rounds from enemy heavy machine gun fire peppered around his feet. While moving across a 200-yard open wadi, Sergeant Harvell and his teammates selflessly stopped to return fire, thereby covering the movement of the rest of the team to safety. In position on the other side of the wadi, Sergeant Harvell directed A-10 fighter and AC-130 gunship engagement of the enemy with immediate success, neutralizing their attacks and killing over fifty ihsurgents. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Harvell has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Combat Controller Receives Two Silver Stars:

The Air Force has awarded two Silver Stars, the third highest award for valor, to SSgt. Sean Harvell, a Combat Controller with the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron at JB Lewis-McChord, Wash., for his actions during multiple firefights in Afghanistan in 2007. At a joint ceremony April 29 honoring several Combat Controllers (see additional entries below), Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz presented Harvell his medals. During one engagement, Harvell deliberately exposed his position so he could coordinate close air support during an intense 23-hour firefight. In another, when Taliban forces attacked his team as they responded to a US helicopter crash, Harvell was wounded and knocked unconscious, but he recovered, returning fire and directing danger-close CAS. And in a third, following a rolling, three-day engagement, Harvell repeatedly exposed his position during an eight-hour firefight, provided covering fire as his team withdrew, and then coordinated CAS for their replacements.

The Air Force has awarded two Silver Stars, the third highest award for valor, to SSgt. Sean Harvell, a Combat Controller with the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron at JB Lewis-McChord, Wash., for his actions during multiple firefights in Afghanistan in 2007. At a joint ceremony April 29, 2010, honoring several Combat Controllers, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz presented Harvell his medals. The Silver Star is the third highest award for valor.

Pictured; Sean Harvell ; sent by Gene Johnson, McChord CCT Photographer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Sent by Ron Childress; CCA Blog

Machine gun rounds flew all around him from 30 feet away. He sprinted through the fire to a position from which he could attack. He shot a rocket-propelled grenade into a room occupied by Taliban fighters.

And when that didn’t clear them out, Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Harvell dodged the gunfire again, covering his team as he went.

Then he called in airstrikes that reportedly killed more than 50 insurgents in Central Afghanistan’s Helmand River area.

Those were the local airman’s heroics on just one day, “during a savage eight-hour firefight,” according to his Air Force citation.

It earned Harvell a Silver Star award. He earned another two months earlier.

A rocket-propelled grenade knocked him out and shrapnel tore at his flesh. When he roused, bleeding from several wounds, he grabbed his M-4 carbine, an M-12 shotgun and grenades, fighting back hard while directing airstrikes. “When I came to, I gathered my faculties as much as I could,” Harvell recalled Thursday after a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “You can’t call a time out in a war zone.”

His gallantry under fire over three days in May and July 2007 earned the now-27-year-old Combat Controller the nation’s third-highest decoration for valor.

The Air Force has awarded only 29 Silver Stars for service in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, said Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff.

Three were presented Thursday. And Harvell wears two of them.

Harvell, a native of Long Beach, Calif., and father of a 9-month-old daughter, is the first Air Force Combat Controller to receive multiple Silver Stars in a single ceremony, officials said. Schwartz, the Air Force’s highest-ranking officer, pinned them on Harvell’s left breast Thursday morning. At the same ceremony, 10 other McChord airmen received medals for bravery and wounds suffered in combat. They were hailed as quiet men of impressive deeds under harrowing circumstances. They stood, ramrod straight, in Hangar 9 at McChord Field to accept their awards before an audience of 700 airmen, family members and dignitaries.

“All Americans in and out of uniform should take note of their honor and their bravery and certainly seek to emulate their deeds,” Schwartz said.

All but one of the 11 men awarded medals Thursday are or were members of the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron at McChord Field. The unit trains and deploys airmen to fight alongside Army Special Forces troops, Army Rangers, Navy Seals and Coalition Forces special operators in a variety of operations, including ground combat.

The Combat Controllers are the warriors who wield a rifle with one hand and a radio with the other, officers said, participating in the battle while calling in air support and medical evacuation teams. Staff Sgt. Evan P. Jones, 26, received both a Silver Star and a Bronze Star with valor for his actions in Afghanistan. He called in air support and directed the evacuation of a wounded soldier, disregarding the shrapnel piercing his own legs, one of his award citations says.

“Sean and Evan’s actions were extraordinary and heroic,” said Lt. Col. Bryan H. Cannady, commander of the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron. He applauded their “warrior ethos” and “face-to-face, anytime, anyplace” dedication to duty.

“It’s quite an honor,” Harvell said after the one-hour ceremony. “When you’re over there, you don’t think about earning medals per se.” Yes, he was scared at times. He relied heavily on his intensive training.

“It’s a pretty nerve-racking experience. There are a lot of moving parts, especially when you’ve got bullets flying over your head,” he added. “There’s a fear factor. (But) You can actually be scared and still be a good Combat Controller.”

And on the occasions of May 8, May 30 and July 25, 2007, there was “definitely luck involved,” he added.

“You can’t pick and choose which bullets are going to fly past you and which ones are going to hit you.”

About a dozen of his teammates were killed or wounded in action during one stretch, he said.

Jones, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was a 24-year-old senior airman on Sept. 2, 2008, when “his remarkable professional skill and heroic actions” while wounded saved the lives of 60 of his comrades, his Silver Star citation says.

His Bronze Star citation credits him with saving the lives of five soldiers and aiding in the deaths of 14 enemies, including three Taliban commanders, as he called in F-16 strafing runs, F-18 strikes and helicopter evacuation of wounded team members.

But he doesn’t feel like a hero.

He did nothing more than all Combat Controllers who do “great work, not getting the recognition, but they deserve it,” Jones said.

These days you might see Harvell – serious faced, dressed for battle, aircraft flying overhead – on an Air Force recruiting poster over the words: “It’s not science fiction.”

He’s doing recruitment duties in the Los Angeles area, seeking the next generation of Combat Controllers.

But his place isn’t on a poster in a movie theater or even a recruitment tour, he said.

It’s back in Afghanistan with his friends and brothers.

“They’re still out there fighting,” he said.

Winner of 2 Silver Stars: 'You can't call a timeout in a war zone'
Military: 11 airmen given medals - including 3 silver stars - for bravery


8 Bronze Stars, 2 Purple Hearts AWARDED, TOO........ In addition to the Silver Stars awarded to Staff Sgts. Sean R. Harvell and Evan P. Jones, the Air Force presented these medals Thursday at McChord Field.

Bronze Star with valor
 •  Staff Sgt. Evan Jones
 •  Master Sgt. Jeffrey Guilmain
 •  Staff Sgt. Simon Malson
 •  Staff Sgt. Christopher Martin
 •  Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Reiss

Bronze Star
 •  Staff Sgt. Christopher Keeler
 •  Staff Sgt. Sean Mullins
 •  Senior Airman Matthew Matlock (125th Special Tactics Squadron)

Purple Heart
 •  Tech. Sgt. Douglas Neville
 •  Tech. Sgt. Marc Tirres

The medals; Silver Star: The nation’s third-highest military honor originated by an act of Congress on July 9, 1918. During World War I, it was a small silver star worn on the campaign service ribbon of a campaign medal, signifying gallantry in action. It was redesigned as a medal on Aug. 8, 1932, also by an act of Congress.

Bronze Star: Created on Feb. 4, 1944, recognizes heroism performed in ground combat.

Purple Heart: Established by Gen. George Washington in 1782, is awarded to any person wounded or killed in action while serving with the U.S. Armed Forces.

A Day in the Life of a Combat Controller
Click to Watch.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Combat Controllers from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron take a moment to recognize retired Col. Joe Jackson at an medal ceremony honoring the Airmen April 29, 2010, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. General Schwartz visited the base to present 13 medals to 11 Combat Controllers. Colonel Jackson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam in 1968, when he risked his life to ensure no Combat Controllers were left behind.

Combat controllers contributions honored in ceremony, sent by Gene Johnson

4/30/2010 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AFNS) -- The Air Force chief of staff presented 13 medals to 11 Combat Controllers during a ceremony here April 29.

Gen. Norton Schwartz pinned three Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, three Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts on Airmen from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron for their actions during various deployments to Afghanistan. Two of the Silver Stars were presented to a single individual.

"It is truly a pleasure to be among these great Airmen," General Schwartz said. "Integrity, service, and excellence are embodied in every heroic action we celebrate here today."

The ceremony recognized these "exceptional Airmen," as the general called them, who "accomplished enormous feats without very much fanfare or pageantry" alongside Army, Navy and Marine Corps special operations forces.

"The families of these Airmen have forged them into men of uncommon valor," said Lt. Col. Bryan Cannady, the 22nd STS commander. "It is my honor to serve beside them."

Combat controllers are highly-trained special operations forces and certified Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers who deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields and then provide air traffic control and fire support.

Two Silver Stars, the nation's third highest decoration for valor, were presented to Staff Sgt. Sean Harvell for his actions during multiple firefights with enemy forces in Afghanistan during spring and summer 2007.

In the first engagement, Sergeant Harvell and his coalition unit were completing a reconnaissance patrol through heavily contested Taliban territory. The team was ambushed and engaged the enemy in a firefight for nearly 23 hours. In order to coordinate close-air support, Sergeant Harvell deliberately exposed his position. Though surrounded by enemy fire, he continued to calmly direct air attacks, including a fighter strafing run within 45 feet of his own position.


Shortly thereafter, Sergeant Harvell's team was out on patrol when they saw an American helicopter go down. The team immediately began moving toward the crash site for recovery operations.

As the team was en route, they were attacked by an overwhelming Taliban force. Several rocket-propelled grenades impacted Sergeant Harvell's vehicle and he was wounded and knocked unconscious.

After coming to, he was able to engage the enemy with return fire and simultaneously direct deadly, danger-close air attacks on the insurgent force. Danger-close range is when friendly forces are within 600 meters of the target when calling for fire. His team's efforts allowed another special operations team to recover the remains of all servicemembers and sensitive equipment from the crash site.

"I feel privileged that my generation is able to serve our country in war," Sergeant Harvell said. "Being a part of something bigger than yourself, depending on other guys and having them depend on you is an honor. Especially as a Combat Controller, people are depending on you (in order) to come home alive."

Almost two months later, Sergeant Harvell and his Army Special Forces team became engaged in a savage eight-hour firefight with Taliban forces. The firefight took place after the team spent three days in a rolling firefight with the enemy before tracking them to a compound.

Sergeant Harvell and his team laid siege to the compound, and he repeatedly exposed his position in order to engage the enemy. As reinforcements arrived, the team withdrew from the compound with Sergeant Harvell providing cover fire for his teammates. Once out of the immediate danger area, he directed fighter aircraft and gunship engagement of the enemy with instant success.

"It's an honor that so many people have come out to recognize us," Sergeant Harvell said. "I realize that General Schwartz is very busy, so for him to come out and personally recognize us is truly an honor. At the same time, I feel kind of guilty, because there are so many other guys out there doing the same thing every day."

Staff Sgt. Evan Jones was also honored during the ceremony. He received both a Silver Star and a Bronze Star with Valor for two separate incidents during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2008.


Sergeant Jones received the Silver Star for his actions during a firefight with the enemy when his coalition special forces unit was ambushed during a combat reconnaissance mission.

The team was taking fire from two directions and Sergeant Jones returned fire while orchestrating close-air support. Continually exposing himself to enemy fire in order to coordinate the destruction of enemy fighting positions, Sergeant Jones was injured when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near his vehicle. He continued to direct air support as his team moved through the engagement area, fighting though a gauntlet of 20 enemy combat positions.

"Honestly, I was just doing my job," Sergeant Jones said. "There are 300-plus Combat Controllers in the Air Force and all of us are just doing our jobs every day, and doing what we are trained to do."

After returning to the fire base, Sergeant Jones coordinated an urgent medical evacuation for a wounded soldier, and directed an air strike against enemy forces preparing to ambush another friendly patrol.

"It's hard to be flawless in a wartime situation, and it's hard for me not to look back and critique my actions," he said. "When I look back and think about the improvements I want to make, it just forces me to train harder and make sure I'm more prepared next time. We had a casualty during this engagement, and several guys were wounded. I think we honor those guys by just continuing to do the best job we can every day."

In addition to Sergeants Harvell and Jones, nine other Combat Controllers received commendations.

The following were presented awards:
Staff Sgt. Christopher Martin, of the 22nd STS, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his deployment to Afghanistan summer 2008. During his deployment, he directed 22 air attacks, five strafing runs and the release of 8,000 pounds of ordnances during two days of fighting.

Senior Airman Mathew Matlock, of the 125th Special Tactics Squadron, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his deployment to Afghanistan fall 2008 through spring 2009. During his deployment, Airman Matlock conducted more than 35 mounted and dismounted combat patrols and 40 combat operations.

Staff Sgt. Simon Malson, of the 22nd STS, was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his deployment to Afghanistan during summer through winter 2008. During his deployment, Sergeant Malson participated in 20 direct-fire engagements, 50 combat missions and controlled more than 100 aircraft flights resulting in more than 125 enemies killed in action.

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Reiss, of the 22nd STS, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his deployment to Afghanistan summer to winter 2008. During his deployment, Sergeant Reiss conducted more than 50 combat missions, and delivered air power in five direct-fire engagements, which led to 60 enemies killed.

Master Sgt. Jeffrey Guilmain, of the 22nd STS, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his deployment to Afghanistan summer through fall 2006. During his deployment, Sergeant Guilmain was attached to an coalition forces unit where he conducted 20 mounted and dismounted patrols and controlled more than 50 aircraft to include the A-10 Thunderbolt II, B-1 Lancer and AC-130 Gunship.

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Keeler, of the 22nd STS, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his deployment to Afghanistan summer to winter 2008. During his deployment, Sergeant Keeler was attached to four separate special forces teams where he was the main joint terminal attack controller and was also a trainer to Afghanistan's 150 army special force commandos. While deployed, Sergeant Keeler conducted 15 combat missions that lead to 15 insurgents killed.

Staff Sgt. Sean Mullins, of the 22nd STS, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his deployment to Afghanistan summer to winter 2008. During Sergeant Mullins deployment, he conducted more than 30 tactical missions, controlled more than 20 aircraft and facilitated the deployment of more than 5,000 pounds of ordnance that resulted in 50 enemies killed.

Tech. Sgt. Marc Tirres, of the 22nd STS, was presented the Purple Heart for injuries he suffered while responding to a well coordinated insurgent attack on Afghanistan National Government facilities in January 2010. During this mission, he assaulted up three stories to engage a well armed and barricaded enemy. Because of his actions, the entrenched force was destroyed within hours compared to previous terrorist attacks which took days to stop. Upon further clearing of the building an explosive device detonated causing shrapnel wounds to left side of face, arm, and leg as well as his left eye.

Tech. Sgt. Douglas Neville, of the 22nd STS, was presented the Purple Heart for injuries he suffered on a large-scale mission to disrupt insurgent activity in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in January 2010. As enemy rounds grazed his position, Sergeant Neville returned fire, emptying six magazines. Enemy snipers hit Sergeant Neville twice. To escape the deadly fire, Sergeant Neville had no choice but to jump 20 feet off of the building, severely fracturing his foot upon landing.