JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – –
Special Tactics Airmen, both current and those still in training, gathered together April 19 to remember and honor a fallen Special Tactics Airman, Senior Airman Bradley Smith, during a dedication ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
“About 10 years ago, the tactical air control party and the Smith Family lost not only a teammate and warrior, but also a son, father and husband,” said Tech. Sgt. Martin Coulombe, 353rd Special Warfare Training Squadron, during the dedication. “The ceremony serves to provide a lasting honor to the legacy left behind to the TACP and Special Warfare community.”
A Special Warfare Training Wing fitness facility was dedicated to Smith, a tactical air controller party member and Silver Star recipient. During the dedication, a plaque engraved with Smith’s story was unveiled.
“I can’t think of a more fitting facility to dedicate to Smith than this one,” said Col. Parks Hughes, SWTW commander. “It’s a very important piece of the Special Warfare community.”
“This fitness facility will serve is a location where all our Special Warfare Airmen will train and be tested,” said Lt. Col. David Anderson, 353rd SWTS commander. “They will sweat, suffer and bond here. They will become brothers here. They will take the first steps to become something bigger than themselves here. As our young men and women pursue their journeys, they can look to Brad’s story to see what excellence is and what they can strive to be.”
Smith was awarded the Silver Star for his actions Jan. 3, 2010, while assigned to the 10th Air Support Operations Squadron in Afghanistan.
The third-highest award for valor in combat was posthumously presented for Smith’s “gallantry in connection with military operations against an armed enemy,” according to the citation.
“Brad was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where his unit was responsible for conducting counter insurgency operations,” Coulombe said.
That day, Smith’s platoon was on foot patrol when they were was ambushed simultaneously with mortar and machine gun fire in addition to being hit with an improvised explosive device. The attack caused a Soldier and Airman to become immobilized in an adjacent creek, and a second Soldier to go missing, according to the citation.
Without hesitation or regard for his personal safety, Smith returned fire and ran through crossfire to rescue his injured comrades, one of whom was mortally wounded. Smith administered first aid then continued to return fire while also coordinating close-air support.
When the missing Soldier was located, Smith knowingly exposed himself to enemy fire a second time to rescue the Soldier when second IED detonated and killed Smith instantly, the citation continued.
After the citation was read, Hughes quoted Brig. Gen. Wolfe Davidson, 14th Air Force vice commander, about the mentality and determination of Special Tactics Airmen like Smith.
“As long as there is an enemy in front of them, a team mate beside them and a family behind them, they will fight to the last breath,” Hughes said. “And that is what Brad Smith did the day he gave his life for his country.”
To the family, he added, “We’re here today to honor you while we remember Brad.”
As part of the event, several attendees recounted memories of Smith and delineate his character and personality, which invoked strong emotions as some had to pause to collect themselves.
The Smith family requested one person in particular to speak of Smith: Tech. Sgt. Tyler Moran, 70th Flying Training Squadron enlisted parachute instructor, who was a close friend of Smith. They first met in technical training 12 years ago.
“There was something about the guy that you get drawn to,” Moran said, describing Smith. “He had a contagious personality; the laugh, the smile – there was just something about the guy that everybody liked. You always wanted to be around him.”
Smith’s positive and social personality was just the beginning of his traits his friends and comrades admire, citing also how reliable he was.
“It is important to have someone you can depend on; someone in those tough and challenging times,” Moran said. “There are plenty of others who can contest how loyal Smith was. He was one of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to serve with.
“He’s the kind of the guy who’s there by your side and has your back no matter how big or small the fight is,” Moran continued. “He’s the kind of guy who selflessly goes back to retrieve injured and dismembered team mates even at the expense of his own safety. He’s sorely missed; thank you for keeping his memory alive.”
Smith is survived by his mother, Paula Smith; wife, Tiffany Smith; and daughter, Chloe Smith, 9, whom also attended the ceremony.
“It is pretty amazing how, as a community, you still honor, recognize and remember him,” Tiffany said. “All of you who are training to do these elite jobs in the Air Force are going to look at Brad’s face when you are in (the gym) and remember why what you are doing is so important. So, thank you.”
“It is amazing that after 10 years, you still honor him,” Paula added, as she choked up with emotion. “This is amazing. I wanted to thank you for sharing memories with me over the years. It means a lot.”
The event concluded with Chloe singing a song she wrote in memory of her late father, who passed away when she was about three months old, invoking tears in several of the attendees.