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Combat controller recounts battle for AFA audience

by Tech. Sgt. James Law
Global Air Chiefs Conference Public Affairs

9/25/2007 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- A combat controller assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., brought an Air Force Special Operations Command perspective on the war on terrorism to attendees at the Air Force Association's 2007 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 24.

"You will get an insight of exactly what these wonderful battlefield Airmen do for you and me, this great country and our allied partners around the world," said Lt. Gen. Michael W. Wooley, AFSOC commander, who introduced Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallace.

Sergeant Wallace, a combat controller with six years experience, recalled a fire fight that lasted more than 24 hours at a fortified compound near Najaf, Iraq. He captured the attention of his audience with combat camera video, photographs and maps. This was not a planned operation, but one in response to a request for reaction forces.

"The Najaf provincial governor and police chief drove to a compound to investigate reports of armed militia," Sergeant Wallace said. 

As they approached the area, the militia forces ambushed them with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.  The governor and police chief abandoned their vehicles and called for reaction forces.

Sergeant Wallace was not a member of the initial response, but two combat controllers in the area took part in rescuing the governor and police chief. After exhausting their ammunition, the initial response force returned to Najaf, with the governor and police chief, to refit.

"Here's where my part came in," said Sergeant Wallace. He was awakened and told to get ready to go. Shortly afterwards Sergeant Wallace was one of about 200 people en route to engage the hostile forces.

At a police check point along the way, Sergeant Wallace observed an RPG explode in the air between two Apache helicopters.

As Sergeant Wallace and the other personnel approached the compound, they were targeted with sniper and machine gun fire.

Throughout the close-quarters combat, Sergeant Wallace and another combat controller coordinated aerial support from Army Apache helicopters, Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, a Navy P-3 Orion and British Tornadoes.

After hours of combat and with about 250 insurgents killed, the remaining militia surrendered.

General Wooley and Sergeant Wallace were among several opening-day guest speakers. Others included Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley. 

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