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Kentucky special tactics Airman receives Bronze Star for actions in Afghanistan

Col. Robert Hamm (left), commander of the 123rd Operations Group, presents the Bronze Star Medal to Senior Airman Robert Willging, a combat controller in the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., March 14, 2015. Willging earned the medal for his actions while deployed to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

Col. Robert Hamm (left), commander of the 123rd Operations Group, presents the Bronze Star Medal to Senior Airman Robert Willging, a combat controller in the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., March 14, 2015. Willging earned the medal for his actions while deployed to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A combat controller from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in a ceremony here March 14 for meritorious service while deployed to Afghanistan.

Senior Airman Robert Willging served with a combined joint special operations task force in Afghanistan from June 1 to Nov. 1, 2014 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During that deployment, Willging assisted in the planning and execution of more than 100 combat patrols and served with lead maneuver elements while coordinating aerial weapons teams, close air support and medical evacuation operations.

Willging personally controlled more than 120 aircraft during multiple day operations, to include combined operations with Afghan National Army Commandos in which he controlled, de-conflicted and engaged with 24 aircraft to ensure the safety of all ground elements, according to the award citation.

"Airman Willging's utilization and control of aerial weapons teams, close air support, and medical evacuation platforms was second to none, and aided in the timely extraction of multiple wounded Afghan National Security Forces and (U.S. Special Operations Forces)," the citation said.

The Bronze Star Medal was authorized by executive order on Feb. 4, 1944, and is awarded to service members who have distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.