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5th ASOS sergeant earns Bronze Star

Exceptional and meritous service recognized

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Truskowski

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A staff sergeant assigned to the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron was awarded the fourth highest combat decoration, the Bronze Star Medal, during a ceremony Dec. 21.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Cox, a joint terminal attack controller, earned the medal for exceptional and meritorious service while deployed May through November 2011 in Afghanistan. He was the battalion air liaison officer for the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Cox took on the role of the BALO, a position typically reserved for Servicemembers who hold the rank of E-7 or O-2. He led an understaffed 5-man team in conducting 91 airstrikes with zero civilian casualties.

"Sergeant Cox's strong leadership ability and confidence enabled him to expertly assume the senior JTAC role," said Army Capt. Justin Nelson, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment company commander.

In addition to taking on responsibilities beyond his rank, Cox organized all close air support plans, directly managing 18 named operations to include five company-sized air assaults. He planned, synchronized and effectively controlled more than 200 hours of CAS in support of the 3-21 Infantry Battalion.

Cox directed multiple CAS and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, providing armed overwatch of friendly movement and F-15 Eagle maneuvers.

Once on the objective, he breached an improvised explosive device lab, resulting in seizure of hundreds of pounds of homemade explosive materials and a weapons cache, as well as the apprehension of five suspected Taliban insurgents.

"It feels good to be getting the award, but I don't see it as a big deal," said Cox, who's from Eugene, Ore. "The deployment was exciting and really busy. I got a chance to do what we train for every day."

Photo: Col. Bruce Beyerly, 1st Air Support Operations Group commander, presents a Bronze Star certificate to Staff Sgt. Andrew Cox, 5th Air Support Operations Squadron joint terminal attack controller, during a ceremony Dec. 21, 2012, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Cox led an understaffed 5-man team in conducting 91 airstrikes with zero civilian casualties during his deployment to Afghanistan.

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