Combat Controller Receives Silver Star for 2013 Battle

Master Sgt. John Grimesey, the flight chief of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Field, N.C., on Aug. 14 received the military’s Silver Star medal for his actions during a 2013 firefight in Afghanistan. He saved the life of one Soldier and killed more than 30 enemy fighters.

Grimesey initially received the Bronze Star medal for the battle, but the Air Force later upgraded the award as part of a service review of valor medals.

“I think about it every day. I even dream about it,” Grimesey said of the battle, according to an Aug. 14 Air Force release. “It’s an event that left an impression on me. While it was a harrowing experience, I look back with great pride and believe that my team and I were able to save lives and help ensure the security of the village.”

On May 25, 2013, Grimesey, then a senior Airman and combat controller with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, set out with his team to clear a village in Ghazni Province so Afghan police could establish a presence. American and Afghan forces were working together when one team ran into a large group of Taliban members. The Taliban came between the partner forces and killed and injured Afghans, including the police chief. 

A rocket-propelled grenade exploded near Grimesey as he looked around the corner of a wall, giving him a concussion. He sustained other injuries as well. Nevertheless, he returned fire and saved an Army Special Forces Soldier hit in the attack by dragging him 25 feet away from enemy fire.

“I snapped into a problem-solving mode,” he said. “The situation was dire and the only way to solve it was to rely on my extensive training and attempt to break down the large problem into small chunks. I had to prioritize with what I was being faced with.”

Grimesey then organized support from Army units in the area and called in multiple airstrikes from F-16s and an AC-130, ultimately killing 31 enemy fighters and saving his team of U.S. and Afghan forces. They recovered the Afghan commander’s body.

“You may not call yourself a hero, Master Sgt. Grimesey, but I do,” Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife said at the ceremony. “Because of your actions that day, families and friends did not experience loss. The men whose lives you saved will continue to positively impact those around them, creating a chain of reaction that ripples across generations.”

During the ceremony, Grimesey also received the Bronze Star medal with the second oak leaf cluster with Valor for his “quick and precise” response to another ambush in Afghanistan in 2017. He is starting his medical retirement process.