Special tactics chief awarded Silver Star for countering overwhelming Afghan ambush

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rachel Williams
  • 24th Special Operations Wing

What began as a typical reconnaissance patrol during a brisk November in Afghanistan quickly took a devastating turn for the worst.

Chief Master Sgt. Chris Grove, the 720th Special Tactics Group superintendent and a special tactics combat controller, delivered thousands of pounds of munitions, securing the safety of joint and partner forces. He is now receiving the Silver Star Medal for his actions in combat.

A crowd of more than 100 family members, friends and teammates gathered at the Special Tactics Memorial as Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, presented the nation’s third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat to Grove during a ceremony, Nov. 15.

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” Slife said. “On the 2nd of November, 2007, (Grove was) the right Airman at the right place, at the right time, who rose to the occasion brilliantly. Thanks for being our example of the embodiment of the American Airman and a testament to the proud special tactics wing.”

Grove was originally awarded the Bronze Star Medal with valor for his actions in October 2008, but due to a recent review of awards within the 24th Special Operations Wing, his package was resubmitted for an upgrade.

“I’m grateful that (leadership) valued the actions that day and sought out this upgrade,” Grove said. “Within our formation, we are fortunate that we have those leaders, both military and civilian, that take care of our people and what they do.”

Grove, a technical sergeant at the time, was assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron and was deployed with a U.S. special forces team to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

As a special tactics CCT, Grove is part of a highly trained special operations community that lethally integrates air power into the special operations’ ground scheme of maneuver.

On Nov. 2, 2007, conditions were at their worst.

Grove was assigned as the joint terminal attack controller with a U.S. special forces team while on patrol in an area that was hammered by the largest Taliban offensives in the country, when his team encountered a disastrous, close-range enemy ambush.

Bearing an uphill vantage point, the enemy had an overwhelming force of heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, mortars and rifle fire; flanking the team’s left and front positions.

Grove and his team immediately began returning fire and sought cover in a nearby compound.

With no regard for his own personal safety, Grove exposed himself to a hail of gunfire to establish an observation post and check with aircraft overhead.

While under continuous fire from the enemy, Grove valiantly controlled airstrikes from F-15 Strike Eagles, coordinating multiple 25 mm strafes and six 500-pound bombs, decimating advancing enemy forces.

As the battle raged, the ground force commander became trapped inside a building of the compound. Insurgents were advancing on his position and the chances of being overrun were rising by the minute.

Grove assessed the situation and did what any special tactics Airman would do: he called for air power.

With the precision employment of a complex danger-close airstrike, Grove created a window of opportunity for his team to maneuver against the enemy forces who had advanced to within 20 meters of their isolated position and allowed his ground force commander to escape.

Grove’s intrepidity and competency on the battlefield allowed his team to break contact and recover a fallen teammate, saving the lives of many U.S. and coalition forces and ensuring no one was left behind.

“The best of our organization, whom Chief Grove epitomizes, maintain a steady sense of humility balanced with quiet confidence,” said Col. Matt Allen, 24th SOW commander. “(Grove) embodies the best of special tactics, the best of (AFSOC) and the best of the Air Force.”

Special tactics Airmen are U.S. Special Operations Command’s tactical air to ground integration force and AFSOC’s special operations ground force; leading global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations.

Since 9/11, special tactics Airmen have received one Medal of Honor, 11 Air Force Crosses and 48 Silver Star Medals.

“It’s not about me, but more about our Airmen that are hauling the mail daily,” Grove said. “There are hundreds of valorous acts, both in the last 18 years and to this day. I appreciate what our Air Force, (AFSOC) and special tactics Airmen are doing daily while prosecuting the nation’s business.”