Ismael Villegas was born in Del Rio, Texas, and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on August 6, 1997. He completed basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, in October 1997, and then attended Combat Control Team training at Lackland AFB (Combat Control Orientation Course); Keesler AFB, Mississippi (Combat Control Operator Course); Fort Benning, Georgia (U.S. Army Airborne School); Fairchild AFB, Washington (U.S. Air Force Basic Survival School); Pope AFB, North Carolina (Combat Control School); Hurlburt Field, Florida (Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training); Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona (U.S. Army Military Freefall Parachutist School); and Panama City, Florida (U.S. Air Force Combat Divers School) between October 1997 and September 1999. Sgt Villegas served as a Special Tactics Operator, Combat Control Team member with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron of the 720th Special Tactics Group at Pope AFB, North Carolina, from September 1999 to March 2004, and then as a Combat Control Team member with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron of the 352nd Operations Group at RAF Mildenhall, England, from March 2004 to November 2010. His next assignment was as a Combat Control Team member back with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB from November 2010 to August 2011. TSgt Villegas is currently serving as a Special Operations Recruiting Liaison at Lackland AFB.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
Technical Sergeant Ismael Villegas distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United States near Bagh Khosak, Afghanistan on 24 September 2009. On that date, Sergeant Villegas was the sole Joint Terminal Attack Controller for his Army Special Forces team during a 16-hour firefight. Sergeant Villegas was part of a three-man dismounted element clearing explosive devices from the road when the enemy initiated an ambush with a remote controlled explosive device. The explosion was followed by accurate and intense heavy machine gun fire from nearby high terrain. Quickly identifying that his team members were pinned down in the enemy kill zone, Sergeant Villegas under direct enemy fire, charged 200 feet across an open, uncleared improvised explosive device minefield to a more effective support-by-fire position and immediately returned fire with his personal weapon. Voluntarily, without hesitation, and at great personal risk, Sergeant Villegas repeatedly exposed himself to direct enemy fire in order to suppress the enemy attack and protect his teammates. He coordinated targets with the command element, and continued to return fire himself while surgically and lethally executing fires on enemy positions using artillery, rotary wing, and fixed-wing close-air support. Sergeant Villegas gallantly suppressed the enemy, protected his team, and neutralized numerous enemy threats without any collateral damage. His heroic and aggressive actions, under direct fire, saved the lives of his teammates and ensured mission success resulting in a total of 32 enemy insurgents killed in action. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Villegas has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.