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New Tactical Air Control Party exhibit now on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

  • Published
  • By Rob Bardua
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
A new exhibit featuring the story of Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Senior Airmen Bradley Smith and Michael Malarsie is now on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

TACP personnel accompany forward military units on the battlefield and arrange air strikes against enemy targets on the ground. They serve in one of the few front-line combat jobs in the Air Force and their training is rigorous and demanding.

Smith and Malarsie trained and deployed together to Afghanistan in December 2009 as a two-man TACP team embedded with an Army infantry company. Smith, who also had about two years of additional forward air control and ground operations training, served as the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), directing close air support strikes with assistance from Malarsie.

On Jan. 3, 2010, Smith and Malarsie were on foot patrol near the village of Badvan with two small fire teams - Alpha and Bravo. Smith assumed a support-by-fire position with the Alpha team. Malarsie with the Bravo team crossed a bridge toward the village. The unit then came under heavy small arms fire and mortar attack. Seconds later, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated, killing two soldiers.

The blast wounded Malarsie in his face and neck, knocking him off the bridge and leaving him incapacitated in a nearby creek. Smith ran through enemy fire to rescue and render aid to his wingman and recover one of the mortally wounded soldiers. After he and the platoon medic stabilized his fellow Airman, Smith continued to defend the position. Despite being badly wounded, Malarsie fought on by handing out his ammunition to those who could return fire.

Smith then volunteered to face hostile fire with the medic once again to recover the second soldier whose body had been thrown 200 meters across the village by the IED blast. After retrieving the body, they proceeded to the casualty collection point. A second IED detonated, killing Smith and the medic instantly. Later, Smith was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal.

Malarsie received the Bronze Star with Valor for heroism on the battlefield. He continued to serve his country and community with the help of his guide dog Xxon.
Although blind, he remained on active duty and was promoted to Staff Sergeant. He established the Air Force Recovering Airman Mentorship Program to help support other wounded warriors and their families. He retired from the Air Force in 2013.

This new permanent exhibit includes both of their combat shirts and TACP berets; a radio and infrared pointer used by TACPs to communicate with aircrews and to provide nighttime visual cueing of targets; and Smith's compass, whistle, signal mirror, and notebook, along with a copy of his Silver Star Medal.

According to Museum Director Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jack Hudson, the courageous story of Smith and Malarsie is a great example of one of the many duties that Airmen are performing in military operations around the world.    

"The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is extremely proud to tell the TACP story and to include this new display as part of our Warrior Airmen exhibit," Hudson said. "Brave Airmen such as Smith and Malarsie are a true testament to the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do."

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the world's largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 17 acres of indoor exhibit space. Each year about one million visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit

NOTE TO PUBLIC: For more information, contact the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at (937) 255-3286.

NOTE TO MEDIA: For more information, contact Rob Bardua in the National Museum of the United States Air Force Public Affairs Division at (937) 255-1386 or