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​Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff (left), New Jersey's adjutant general, on June 28, 2014, presents New Jersey Air National Guardsman MSgt. Michael Sears with the Silver Star for his gallantry in combat during an enemy ambush in Afghanistan in September 2012. Air National Guard photo by MSgt. Mark C. Olsen

​MSgt. Michael Sears received the Silver Star, the nation's third highest decoration for gallantry in combat, for his valor during an enemy ambush in Afghanistan in 2012. Sears is an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing located near Atlantic City. Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff, New Jersey's adjutant general, presented Sears with the Silver Star on June 28 at the wing's headquarters. On Sept. 29, 2012, Sears led a three-man EOD team that came under attack in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. During the two-hour firefight, Sears provided life-saving aid to a wounded Polish soldier, directed his team to return fire while exposing himself to enemy fire, and continued to fight after a rocket-propelled grenade blast temporarily knocked him unconscious, according to a wing release. "It is just phenomenal how he just stepped out away from safety to save others," said Army Gen. Frank Grass, National Guard Bureau chief, of Sears. The latter credited his two colleagues that day, TSgt. Jay Hurley and SSgt. Josh Jerden, for their courage under fire. "Their actions showed what kind of team I had," he said. (Atlantic City report by TSgt. Matt Hecht)