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Combat control instructor earns Bronze Star

Sergeant Spurlin wore traditional Afghan garb as a special forces operative.  (Courtesy photo)

Sergeant Spurlin wore traditional Afghan garb as a special forces operative. (Courtesy photo)

Col. Prince Gilliard, left, 81st Training Group commander, presents Sergeant Spurlin’s Bronze Star at Friday’s drill down.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Col. Prince Gilliard, left, 81st Training Group commander, presents Sergeant Spurlin’s Bronze Star at Friday’s drill down. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, BILOXI, MISS. -- Staff Sgt. Ashley Spurlin, a combat control instructor in the 334th Training Squadron, was presented the Bronze Star during Friday's drill down. 

The Bronze Star is the fourth highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces and ninth highest award among U.S. military decorations. The award recognizes single acts of merit and meritorious service accomplished with distinction. 

The seven-year Air Force veteran was recognized for meritorious service as the joint terminal air controller with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His duties involved pursuing al-Qaida and Taliban operatives on capture/kill missions along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border from August 2007 to February 2008. 

Sergeant Spurlin, who joined Keesler's combat control training team eight months ago, was previously deployed to Romania, Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia and Uzbekistan. He says his deployment experiences have enhanced the abilities he brings to the Keesler classroom. 

"It allows me to relate deployed experiences in every aspect to what we strive to teach our students while they are here learning the basic fundamentals of both rigorous physical training and air traffic control fundamentals," said Sergeant Spurlin, who hails from Monterrey, Calif. 

"Having the ability to relate every event a student performs while here at Keesler to a real world scenario allows the students to understand the 'why' and 'how' of what it is they'll be doing once they are actual 5-level combat controllers as opposed to just doing something but not understanding the implications of that skill or event," he pointed out. 

Rather than just having the students perform an action or event, "our instructors give them an actual combat situation in which they will be using the mental and physical strength gained while here at Keesler to keep them and their teammates alive, when their real world mission doesn't go according to plan, machine gun fire and (rocket propelled grenades) are going off around them and the enemy is starting to surround them," Sergeant Spurlin explained. 

Sergeant Spurlin served with Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3313, Special Operations Task Force 33, from August 2007 to February 2008. The detachment routinely deployed through the Kunar Province to conduct missions intended to capture or kill enemies of the government. 

Sergeant Spurlin deployed on more than 50 combat missions and served as the subject matter expert on all aircraft and close air support capabilities. 

He was recognized for countering the improvised explosive device threat to the detachment by coordinating electronic warfare burns along main approach avenues. He also served as an MK-19 ear gunner for detachment operations and was the primary conduit for all fire support for preplanned and emergency close air support. 

During the Waturpor Valley operation, where the enemy was closing in on the assault element, he used the AC-130 gunship to neutralize the enemy threat, allowing the assault element to block access to the objective out of contact. He also controlled close air support as the detachment engaged enemy attacking of a second objective. The ordnance dropped by the close air support under his control destroyed 10 to 15 enemy elements engaging coalition forces. 

During Operation Stalking Wolf, he identified and destroyed a cave complex that was used by enemy surveillance operatives that observed and attacked coalition forces.