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Keesler combat controllers honor fallen friends

  • Published
  • By Angela Cutrer
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
It's no secret that it takes a special kind of Airman to be a combat controller. Just ask Staff Sgts. Ashley Spurlin and Adam Malson, 334th Training Squadron combat control instructors.
Combat controllers are battlefield Airmen assigned to special tactics squadrons. They are trained special operations forces and certified Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers. Their mission is to deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance and special reconnaissance in the joint arena.
Both said they are used to hard work. In fact, they're used to intensive, rigorous, punishing, grueling work. After all, they are combat controllers -- hard work and toughness go hand-in-hand.

That doesn't mean these two don't have hearts. Mention their lost buddies and these hardened, tough, sturdy men tighten their chins, lower their eyes and kick Biloxi sand around with their boots as they contemplate.
"We were all best friends," Sergeant Malson said of the Airmen lost from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla. "And now we want to do (something) for the families left behind. We want to support them and honor them."

On Oct. 6, two men loaded down with heavy 50-pound rucks containing memorial batons engraved with the names of 12 fallen teammates will take the first steps on a journey by foot which will span hundreds of miles of coastline and varying terrain. The trek will stretch from San Antonio to Hurlburt Field. Its main goal will be to honor fallen service members.

The 824-mile crossing begins at the combat control selection course at Lackland Air Force Base Training Annex in San Antonio. This is where all special tactics team members begin their training. At 5 a.m., the first duo will take initial steps toward Fort Walton Beach. Sergeant Spurlin and Sergeant Malson will be two of the 12 involved in the grueling march.
Each two-man team will walk in 150-mile legs, 15 miles every 20 hours along the way.

Staff Sgt. Timothy Davis, 23rd STS died Feb. 20 in Oruzgan, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. For his bravery, Sergeant Davis was awarded two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars with Valor.

Sergeant Malson said this relay is in honor of Sergeant Davis and all special tactics teammates who lost their lives in the line of duty. Tech. Sgt. Will Jefferson, combat controller, and Tech. Sgt. Scott Duffman, pararescue, will also be among those honored.
The relay is also to raise awareness and funding for the Air Force Special Operations Warrior Fund which helps to pay for the education for the children of combat controllers and other special operations Airmen. 

Team members from Special Operations Command perform important jobs, including combat control, pararescue, special operations weather or tactical air control party.
The relay is slated to take eight to nine days. Once complete, the group will meet teammates, family and friends in time for the annual Combat Control Association reunion Oct. 17, where Sergeant Davis' name, along with the others, will be added to the Combat Control Memorial at the Hurlburt Field Air Park. While this relay is to honor those who have fallen, it also shows that fallen special operations team members are never forgotten. 

"A lot of the combat controller team (members) are still deployed and can't do this," Sergeant Malson said, "but we're in a pretty good spot to support (the cause) this way. It's a real honor." 

"We're doing this for the combat controllers and pararescuers -- those two career fields -- because we want to remember their sacrifice," Sergeant Spurlin said. "And we're doing it for their families."