Senior Airman Cory Guess, shown at lower left holding the flag, received a coin from Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey for his role in taking out two insurgents planting roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan. (Air Force)
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Less than one month into his fourth deployment in five years, an Air Force joint tactical air controller got a memento from the nation's top military officer.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recognized Senior Airman Cory Guess with a commemorative coin for his role in taking out two insurgents planting roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan.
Guess credits success of the mission earlier this month to the team he works with.
"It's nice to be recognized by your peers," said Guess, assigned to the 807th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron. But "I don't like the individual recognition. Everything I've done over here is a group effort."
"The bad guys, basically what they're doing is causing issues for a properly functioning Afghanistan, making roads unsafe to travel," said Tech. Sgt. Glenn Wilderman, battalion air liaison officer. "For Senior Airman Guess to be singled out is pretty outstanding. … He effectively took two insurgents out of circulation."
The insurgents had armed multiple roadside bombs in expectation of International Security Assistance Force patrols, Wilderman said in an email.
Guess described tracking the insurgents along a route that included compounds, buildings and civilians.
"As soon as they moved into an area clear of civilians," he said, "we dropped the bomb on them."
One insurgent was killed and the second was wounded, Wilderman said. "By deploying that bomb," he said, "that's really why we're here."
Guess didn't get the chance to meet Dempsey because of conflicting schedules. Maj. Keith L. Carter presented the coin to Guess, calling him forward and recounting the successful mission.
"In the end, the right person on our team received the token of appreciation," Wilderman wrote. Guess is "the youngest and the most deserving. Within two years of arriving at the unit here, he achieved the ultimate realization of years of hard work, field and technical training, simulators, academics [and] advanced academics by expertly executing a combat drop."
The coin is one of several Guess has collected in his brief Air Force career, which has taken him to Iraq — and now Afghanistan — twice. Prior to receiving the coin from Dempsey, Guess received a Battalion Commanders Coin for Excellence when he called in a drone strike that helped thwart an insurgent ambush.
Guess grew up in Chicago, son of a career soldier. "I've been around the military since I was young," he said.
Guess said he joined the Air Force because it would also give him the chance to see the world and receive an education. Despite deploying four times in five years, he plans to re-enlist in March. He eventually wants to become a police officer.
Wilderman called the event a "defining moment in his promising career, the first of many. … In the end, it's gratifying to be highlighted by the highest-ranking member in the Armed Services, but it's even more gratifying to be relevant at the grass-roots level, by the soldiers on the front line."