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Combat controller, our 2019 Airman of the Year, to receive Silver Star

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An Air Force combat controller, who was selected as Air Force Times’ Airman of the Year earlier in 2019, will receive a Silver Star for his heroism during a harrowing battle in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, who is with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing, at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, will be awarded the third highest medal for gallantry against an enemy in combat during a ceremony on Friday. Air Force Special Operations Command head Lt. Gen. Jim Slife will officiate the ceremony at Cannon, the 24th said in a release.

Smith will be honored for his role saving the lives of his fellow U.S. troops and Afghan allies by preventing enemy forces from overrunning their positions in Faryab province on Oct. 14, 2018 — a week after fighting another grueling battle.

Smith and his team — which included Green Berets and other soldiers, a pararescueman, and about 65 Afghan troops — were trying to push dug-in Taliban forces out of the area during national parliamentary elections that month. That day, the team approached a large village in the Shirin Tagab district and ran into barricades and winding roadblocks that slowed their progress. An IED detonated in front of the convoy, and a massive force of Taliban fighters launched an ambush with overwhelming gunfire, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

Smith, the team’s joint terminal attack controller, fought back along with the rest of his team, firing his rifle and throwing hand grenades to push the Taliban back. They ran into a blockade and encountered dozens of civilian casualties, some of whom were wounded children carried by their mothers. Smith left his vehicle to help them, exposing himself to machine gun fire coming from two sides, and was shot in his body armor.

As he tried to keep Taliban forces from overrunning the convoy, a mortar round struck a few meters away. Although Smith had a concussion, was overwhelmingly nauseous and vomiting, he declined medical care and continued to fight. Later, as he tried to protect his commander, an RPG hit nearby and injured him, but still, he kept fighting. In an interview earlier this year, Smith said the battle lasted for six to eight hours.

“While receiving accurate fires from the enemy and with no regard for his own personal safety, Smith exposed himself to danger to control airstrikes and assist dozens of civilians injured and killed from the enemy’s ambush,” the release said.

Smith also coordinated attacks from F-16 Fighting Falcons and AH-64 Apache helicopters, which included dropping multiple precision-guided 500-pound bombs as close as 90 meters away.

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