USO honors service members' leadership

  • Published
  • By Donna Miles
  • American Forces Press Service
Medal of Honor recipient Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan in August, a Soldier and an Air Force search-and-rescue team member who repeatedly exposed themselves to enemy fire to save their wounded comrades, and a Coast Guardsman who led maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf received the USO's most prestigious leadership award here Dec. 7.

The USO presented its George Van Cleave Military Leadership Awards at its 50th annual gala here to one member of each service who demonstrated outstanding commitment and exceptional service, sacrifice and achievement.

In addition to Meyer, this year's recipients included Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael A. Brait, Army Sgt. 1st Class Ty Carter, the late Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Bill, and Coast Guard Lt. Jason Mortiz.

Brait was honored for demonstrating exceptional leadership and heroism as a special tactics combat controller in Afghanistan, according to officials. He has maintained more than 3,000 hours of combat search-and-rescue coverage for an elite special operations force and provided helicopter services for 48 resupply missions, including crucial humanitarian assistance to a local Afghan village.

During a four-day operation in an insurgent village, Brait was the lead joint terminal attack controller for a combined U.S. Army Special Forces operational detachment, according to award documents. In that role, he conducted a critical nighttime water resupply for severely dehydrated forces, despite extreme heat and the threat of enemy ambush. The following morning, he responded to an attack on naval special forces, using an overhead Predator and Hellfire missile against the insurgents. While under heavy machine gun fire from multiple locations, he helped evacuate injured personnel while continuing to identify and attack enemy forces.

Brait also trained 140 Afghan soldiers on the front line of the U.S. security effort and led a six-month training plan to prepare combat-ready troops. For his bravery and leadership, he received the Bronze Star, Joint Service Commendation Medal and Air Force Combat Action Medal.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who was also honored by the USO at the ceremony, said he's proud of the entire military team -- troops on the ground, carrier battle groups at sea with their embarked Marine expeditionary units, tactical air squadrons, and logisticians maintaining and sustaining the force.

"It's a remarkable enterprise, and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of it, and I couldn't be more proud of all the services for what they do," Dempsey said.