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Duty First, Always Ready

Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) personnel form an elite group of Air Force warriors. It is one of the few front-line combat jobs in the Air Force. TACP members bring overwhelming firepower to the battlefield. These Airmen accompany forward Army units to direct combat aircraft engaged in close air support to ground operations. Their training is rigorous and demanding. Only the most successful get to wear the black beret with its distinctive crest. TACPs are Battlefield Airmen who strive to excel, who put duty first, and who are always ready to serve.

Senior Airmen Michael Malarsie and Bradley Smith
Senior Airmen Michael Malarsie and Bradley Smith both trained and deployed together to Afghanistan in December 2009. As a two-man JTAC team, embedded with an Army infantry company, they directed close air support firepower at enemy targets on the ground.

On Jan. 3, 2010, they 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 volunteered to face hostile fire with the medic 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.

Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal.

Senior Airman 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 USAF in 2013.

Click here to return to the Warrior Airmen Overview.


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Duty First, Always Ready Exhibit Opening New Story (00:04:09)
Duty First, Always Ready Full Exhibit Opening (00:30:24)
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