Airman may recieve the Medal of Honor for the first time since Vietnam


The military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, has not been awarded to anyone in the Air Force during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that may soon change, according to an article in the Washington Post.

The announcement comes after Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James ordered a review of valor awards for special operations Airmen, the Post reported. According to Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to recommend that one of the seven airmen who have been awarded the Air Force Cross—second only to MOH — since Sept. 11 receive the Medal of Honor.

The following is a list of airmen who could potentially receive the high honor:

Tech. Sgt John Chapman (posthumous award)

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

The Battle of Robert’s Ridge, or Takur Ghar, was the short brutal hill fight that came early in the Afghan war.  In the early hours of March 4 2002, two SEAL teams attempted to land on the peak of Mt. Takur Ghar to establish an observation post.  As the second SEAL team “spilled out of the ramp” attempting to find a lost comrade, Sgt. Chapman was mortally wounded. The team came under intense fire as their helicopter landed and, according to an Air Force report, Chapman engaged and killed two enemy personnel.

Senior Airman Jason Cunningham (posthumous award)

Senior Airman Jason Cunningham
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

Cunningham also fought and died during the battle of Robert’s Ridge. He was part of the quick reaction force sent to recover Navy SEAL, Petty Officer Neil Roberts who fell out of the back of a helicopter after it was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. His aircraft received an RPG hit, causing it to lose power and crash atop Takur Ghar. Cunningham began treating casualties in the established defense around the crash, according to the military report.  “Using the burning fuselage as cover he moved his patients to safety and continued to treat them.” Cunningham –who was eventually mortally wounded– was credited for rendering aid to 10 gravely injured service members, the article stated.

Capt. Barry Crawford Jr.

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

In May 2010 in the mountains of Lagham Province in Afghanistan, a team of Afghan Commandoes, Army Special Forces and an Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller team came under crushing fire after finding a weapons cache.  Capt. Barry Crawford Jr. called in multiple airstrikes from both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. He was able to keep the enemy at bay and allow his team to maneuver out of the “kill zone.” His actions allowed for the safe medical evacuation of wounded soldiers, the Air Force Times reported.

Tech. Sgt Robert Gutierrez Jr.

Tech. Sgt Robert Gutierrez Jr.
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

A joint terminal attack controller for an Army Special Forces team, Sgt. Robert Gutierrez’s job was to talk to aircraft overhead, according to an Air Force Times article that detailed his heroism. On Oct 5, 2009 in Herat Province, Afghanistan– Gutierrez was bleeding out through a hole in his back. After a Special Forces’ medic decompressed his chest cavity with a syringe, Gutierrez was finally able to talk to a flight of A-10 warthogs that “banked and rolled in with their 30mm cannons.” His actions were credited with saving the lives of a dozens of soldiers.

Senior Airman Dustin Temple

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

Dustin Temple was one of three airman assigned to joint Army Special Forces and Afghan Commando team tasked with reclaiming a part of the Helmand River Valley.  In a 48-hour firefight in Helmand province, Afghanistan in 2014, Temple was responsible for calling in 75 “danger-close” airstrikes. The bombs that were being dropped on the enemy were so close to U.S. and Afghan forces that special authorization was required to drop them, the report stated.

Tech. Sgt Zachary J. Rhyner

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

In April 2008, Sgt. Zachary Rhyner was in the Shok Valley in Afghanistan, outnumbered and outgunned. As a combat controller he was “attached to an additional 40 U.S. troops and around 100 Afghan Commandoes,” according to an Air Force Times article.  As the enemy closed in, Rhyner directed airstrikes from a group of F-15s above. For three hours, Rhyner called in airstrikes and was shot three times. The report said, even after the last of the troops had been evacuated from the valley floor, Rhyner was hanging out the back of a helicopter calling in one last airstrike.

Master Sgt. Ivan Ruiz

Master Sgt. Ivan Ruiz

A pararescueman attached to an Army Special Forces team, Sgt. Ivan Ruiz was involved in a ‘close- quarters’ engagement in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan in December 2013. According to an Air Force Times article, Ruiz was moving through a series of compounds when his team came under heavy fire. When two soldiers were wounded by gunfire and grenades, “without hesitation” Ruiz ran to the injured and began returning fire. He defended his wounded comrades until reinforcements arrived and he could drag them to safety.

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