SSgt. Smith awarded The Air Force Commendation Medal with Valor

WELLSVILLE – SSgt. Nathan B. Smith, was awarded The Air Force Commendation Medal with Valor for outstanding achievement March 29, 2012, in Afghanistan.

Smith distinguished himself by an act of courage as Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), 807th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron, 504th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Group, Forward Operating Base Sarkari Karez, Afghanistan.

On that day, Smith was air assaulted into his Objective with Alpha Troop, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment and Afghan National Security Forces. Their dismounted patrol was tasked to secure key terrain and limit the influence of a known Taliban commander by cordon and searching intelligence assessed strong points in the local village. Shortly into their patrol, Sergeant Smith’s element came under direct fire, initiated by sniper fire, striking within 3 feet of his position. Approximately two minutes into the engagement, the enemy initiated an intense barrage of AK-47, PKM, RPG and DSkK rounds originating from 3 different directions, pinning the entire patrol down. Smith immediately returned fire with his M4 rifle. Within the first five minutes of the firefight, friendly forces had sustained three casualties, and were still pinned down unable to locate enemy personnel.

Due to a lack of reporting, he decided to move by himself from the confines of the strongpoint in an attempt to acquire the enemy heavy machine gun position inflicting casualties, leaving his ROMAD with the ground commander to relay all pertinent information. As Sergeant Smith moved approximately 300m, he exposed himself to three linear danger areas as well as a barrage of gunfire, with rounds striking the ground and wall within five feet of him as he moved to the south eastern corner of the village in order to spot the enemy heavy machine gun position that had already caused three friendly casualties.

Based on his reports, 12 rounds of high explosive 60 millimeter mortars were fired at the machine gun position, forcing the enemy to disengage. On multiple occasions, while under a barrage of enemy fire, Smith endangered himself in order to directly engage the enemy and to observe his directed munitions impact on the targeted enemy. Shortly there-after, he exposed himself again to provided cover fire with his M-4 and utilized air weapons team to conduct a show of force over the tree line that enemy had been using for cover, as friendly forces recovered the three casualties from the roof of the compound he was in. Smith then repositioned himself back to the Coalition Force strongpoint and directed the helicopter medical evacuation of the three United States casualties. He de-conflicted the airspace, coordinated the pick-up, and marked the landing zone allowing two HH-60 Blackhawks safe passage into the hostile area for safe recovery of the casualties from the battlefield.

As the final casualty was being loaded, the enemy fired upon the helicopter. Smith again provided covering fire to allow safe departure of the medical helicopter. With enemy fire still originating primarily from the South, he identified four enemy combatants firing AK-47’s at a friendly element located on the southern side of the village they were occupying. Smith utilized close air support, provided by two F-18 Super Hornets, to strike the combatant position with a GPS guided bomb, and thwarting all follow on attacks. After the strike, Smith relentlessly tracked three enemy fighters with the air assets he was controlling overhead. With darkness quickly approaching, he volunteered to leave the safety of the strongpoint to join the friendly force element moving 700 meters through open terrain, straight into the heart of the enemy force, to ensure the safety of the friendly element, conduct battle damage of the CAS strike and attempt to capture the three remaining enemy fighters. As the friendly force approached the site, Sergeant Smith utilized the close combat attack helicopters to mark personnel moving in the general area, allowing ground forces to be completely aware of their surroundings at all times. As friendly ground forces moved to secure the three enemy fighters, Smith utilized the F-18 Super Hornets to guide his element onto the individuals, leading to their capture without incident. Throughout the three and half hour engagement, Smith synergistically controlled close combat attack helicopters, intelligence assets, close air support (CAS) and artillery. His actions were critical to the extraction of casualties from the battlefield, destruction of over 500 pounds of homemade explosives, capture of an enemy command and control node and elimination of 18 enemy combatants. By his prompt and selfless actions, Sergeant Smith has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Smith is a 2001 graduate of Beaver Local High School. He and his wife, SSgt Rachel Sachs-Smith, and two sons, Kaden and Ryder, reside in Sanford, N.C. Smith is the son of Steve and Sally Smith of Wellsville.