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Silver Stars, Purple Heart awarded to Pope airmen

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. -

Three Special Tactics airmen received special recognition Friday at Fort Bragg's Pope Field.

A ceremony recognized Master Sgt. Delorean Sheridan and Staff Sgt. Christopher Baradat, and Technical Sgt. Jeremy Whiddon. Delorean and Baradat were involved in separate gun fights in Afghanistan last spring that earned each of them a silver star. Whiddon received a Purple Heart medal as a result of a battle that also occurred last spring in Afghanistan.

The men are combat controllers assigned to the Air Force's 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is based at Pope Field. Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel presented Sheridan and the other men their respective medals. First Lt. Ian H. Williams narrated the ceremony.

In March of last year Sheridan was in a group huddle with his team of U.S. and Afghan Special Forces when an Afghan National Police officer with a truck-mounted machine gun started firing at them. 15 to 20 other enemy fighters started firing also, and Sheridan immediately thought to grab his team leader he said.

"As I went to grab him I saw him get shot in the head, closer than I am to you," Sheridan told news reporters gathered a few feet in front of him after the ceremony.

At that point Sheridan ran toward the first gunman, shot and killed him and ran through gunfire three more times to pull injured comrades to safety.

"My teammates were out there and I had to get to them," Sheridan explained. "It doesn't matter. I have to get to my teammates and get them to a safe spot."

Sheridan also called in aircraft for medical evacuations and to attacks on the insurgents.

Just before Sheridan received his Silver Star, Williams read from the citation that explains Sheridan's actions.

"Sergeant Sheridan's complete disregard for his personal safety and extreme calm under pressure despite grave danger to himself and others directly resulted in saving the lives of 23 critically wounded personnel," Williams read.

 The following month Baradat was with his Special Forces team as they went into a valley to help coalition forces escape an attack. While being shot at, for three hours he came out into the open to communicate with aircraft and guide them to attack the enemy forces. His own safety was afterthought he said.

"All I could think about was being able to do my job to help support the team and get them out of there," Baradat explained after the ceremony. "So I wasn't thinking about that at the time."

The citation explaining Baradat's actions explains that gunfire was hitting the ground around him close enough to spray him with dirt.

"Sergeant Baradat's selfless and heroic actions directly resulted in over 50 enemy fighters killed while saving the lives of over 150 friendly personnel," Williams read from the citation.

Whiddon's Purple Heart came in recognition of the traumatic brain injury he suffered as a result of a 24-hour battle involving gunfire and explosions. That battled occurred in Afghanistan in May of 2013.

"I was hit pretty good by some large explosions," Whiddon said.

Nonetheless, he continued working to communicate with aircraft that were needed to help U.S. forces during the battle.

"It's good to be recognized. At the same time though it's not what you were looking for when you started," Whiddon said.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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