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NEWS | March 25, 2014

Oregon Air National Guard members earn high honors

By Oregon National Guard

CLACKAMAS, Ore. - The Oregon Air National Guard honored a group of Airmen with the 125th Special Tactics Squadron with a Silver Star and Bronze Star medals, during a ceremony Monday.

Attending were Lt. Gen. Eric E. Fiel, commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, director, Air National Guard, the Pentagon and Maj. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, adjutant general of Oregon.

The Airmen recognized were Tech. Sgt. Doug Matthews with the Silver Star; Staff Sgt. Matthew Matlock with the Bronze Star Medal with Valor and second Oak Leaf Cluster; Staff Sgt. Christopher Jones with the Bronze Star with Valor and first Oak Leaf Cluster; and Tech. Sgt. George Thompson with the Bronze Star.

"The 125th STS has a proud history of displaying valor and heroism in combat," said Maj. TJ Awada, commander of the 125th STS. "The actions of Sergeants Matthews, Jones, Matlock, and Thompson are in keeping with the highest traditions of this squadron and the Oregon National Guard.

On Nov. 27, 2012, the vehicle Matthews was riding in struck an improvised explosive device, triggering a coordinated ambush near Jalrez, Wardak Province in Afghanistan. Despite being ejected from the vehicle, and sustaining head injuries and multiple lacerations, he immediately came to his feet and faced small-arms fire from 12 different enemy fighting positions, some as close as 30 meters.

Although seriously wounded, Matthews returned fire and made his way back to the overturned vehicle to aid his wounded teammates. He located his team leader, who was ejected from the vehicle and seriously wounded, and moved him to safety while continuing to exchange fire with the enemy. As his Special Forces teammates regrouped, Matthews coordinated close air support and medical evacuation for the wounded. Despite being exposed to enemy fire, he continued to direct close air support, which eventually repelled the enemy.

"His heroism under fire while directing close air support allowed friendly forces to recover all personnel with no loss of life and maneuver out of the ambush's kill zone. Sergeant Matthews' actions undoubtedly saved the lives of his wounded teammates and an Afghan interpreter," the award citation reads.

On Oct. 6, 2012, Matlock's team began receiving intense enemy fire while conducting a patrol in Arabon Valley, Wardak Province, Afghanistan. Matlock dove into a nearby irrigation ditch and returned fire while coordinating air support to suppress the enemy fire pinning down his team. He crawled to a vantage point where he determined that two Special Forces and two Afghan partner force soldiers were severely wounded. Matlock soon realized that his team leader was also injured. With complete disregard for his own safety, Matlock jumped to his feet and ran to the aid of his teammates. He rendered first aid while coordinating medical evacuation flights and close air support. As medical evacuation helicopters arrived, he carried one of his injured comrades to safety while under enemy fire.

On Oct. 8, 2012, Jones served as the primary joint terminal attack controller assigned to an Army Special Forces Team conducting a tactical ground movement in Paktiya Province, Afghanistan. The team's lead vehicle struck an improvised explosive device, triggering a coordinated ambush. Jones immediately returned fire while coordinating close air support aircraft overhead. After the initial volley of enemy fire, Jones exited his vehicle and rushed to the command element, which was pinned down by enemy fire. As he made his way to the front of the convoy, Jones continued to engage the enemy and provide air support. While coordinating airstrikes, Jones lost line of sight communications with the aerial support. Without regard for his personal safety, Jones immediately moved to an exposed position in order to regain communications and continue aerial coordination to repel the enemy assault.

Between Jan. 15 and April 15, 2011, Thompson served as a joint terminal attack controller attached to an Army Special Forces team, conducting more than 35 combat patrols in the rugged terrain of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. During one mission, insurgents ambushed his team with machine gun and small arms fire. Thompson returned fire, enabling the team to reach cover. He quickly relayed the location of two insurgents he identified, enabling Afghanistan Local Police to defeat both insurgents. Also, during a separate patrol, his team came under heavy small arms fire from insurgents. Thompson returned fire, re-supplied the M-249 machine gunner, and directed mortar fire. He then controlled fixed-wing air support, initiating an enemy withdrawal. Throughout the deployment, Thompson controlled 34 aircraft during multiple life-threatening missions.

The 125th STS was officially established on May 1, 2005, and is headquartered at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore. The 125th Special Tactics Squadron has 79 members made up of Combat Controllers (CCT), Special Operations Weathermen (SOWT), and numerous support positions. Members of the unit undergo a rigorous two-year training program where they graduate as combat divers, military free-fall and static-line parachutists and are trained to operate in any environment in the world.