by Staff Sgt. Erica Horner
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
11/14/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- "I
was only attached to these guys for just one mission but it was the
most important mission of my life," said Maj. F. Damon Friedman, an Air
Force Special Operations Command special tactics officer who was briefly
assigned to an Army task force while serving in Afghanistan.
For his actions, Friedman was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor during a ceremony Nov. 13, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
It was April 2010 and the Korengal Valley, a 2-kilometer "kill-box"
located in northeast Afghanistan, had already claimed the lives of more
than 40 American service members since the start of Operation Enduring
Freedom. The compact valley with extremely high terrain was difficult to
maneuver, earning the name "Valley of Death," and it needed to be
cleared of enemy forces immediately.
"It was a very high profile mission. There were several Special Forces
Operational Detachment Alpha teams assigned to one battalion and also an
Army task force," said Friedman, then a captain on his third deployment
in Afghanistan since becoming a STO. "Our unit was responsible for
going in and conducting disruption operations so the current Army unit
would be able to start taking out enemy forces in the middle of the
night and ultimately close that place down."
Because of his expertise, Friedman was appointed as the lead joint
terminal attack controller with a team of three combat controllers. He
was also tasked as the "fire's guy," the subject matter expert for all
close air support and call for fires during that mission.
"When we came in, there were about 100 enemy forces in the area. I was
up for three days without a second of sleep conducting close air support
with numerous aircraft overhead," said Friedman.
This was nothing new for Friedman; using his elevated location to his
advantage, he provided fire support and cover for the men moving through
"I had the greatest situational awareness," he said. "I was able to
receive the aircraft and push them out, or conduct close air support and
call for fire because my position was much safer and I could see the
According to the medal citation, for seven days, often under direct and
indirect hostile fire, Friedman maneuvered to exposed positions to
improve the coordination and deconfliction of more than 200 attack
He also controlled and directed the delivery of 4,000 pounds of bombs,
AC-130 rounds, and repeated rocket and strafe attacks. On two accounts,
he controlled bombs and rockets within 100 meters of pinned-down
friendly forces, thereby saving the lives of his teammates.
"I wanted to be as accurate as possible," he said. "I wanted to make the
right calls and I didn't want to be overzealous, especially when it
came to danger close. You want everyone to be safe on your side. You
want everyone to come home and everyone did come home."
No friendly forces were killed and Friedman was credited with 40 enemies killed and wounded.
"The "V" is something very special," said Brig. Gen. Albert "Buck"
Elton, AFSOC director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments,
referring to the valor device on the Bronze Star. "It's difficult to
earn and they protect that device. To have three Bronze Stars is a big
deal, especially one with valor."
Friedman credits his team for this achievement.
"Honestly, when I look at this medal with the "V" device, it's for the
guys; it was a team effort," said Friedman. "These men they go out and
do extraordinary things; the operators and the controllers, they're
amazing and this is as much of theirs as it is mine. I'm just honored to
be a part of it."
The BSM is the fourth highest individual military award. It may be
awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a
combat zone. When awarded for acts of heroism, the medal is awarded with
a Valor, or "V," device.
Editor's Note: A "kill box," a common term used by special
operations forces, is a three-dimensional area used to facilitate the
integration of joint fires.