AIR FORCE CROSS
SSgt Richard B. Hunter
The President of the United States of America, authorized by section 8742 of title 10 U.S.C., awards the Air Force Cross to Staff Sergeant Richard B. Hunter for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller, 23d Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component-Afghanistan in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan from 2 November 2016 to 3 November 2016. During this period, while assigned to a Special Forces team, Sergeant Hunter displayed extraordinary bravery as his team assaulted an insurgent safe haven. As they moved in a narrow alley, Taliban fighters ambushed them with grenade and heavy machine gun fire. With no regard for his own life, Sergeant Hunter placed himself between the enemy and his team, shielding the wounded with his body while providing suppressive fire with his rifle. To allow his team to withdraw from the kill zone, he positioned himself at the rear of the element, closest to the threat to prevent fratricide, and directed multiple danger-close airstrikes to within 20 meters; well inside the 190-meter danger-close distance for 105 millimeter rounds. With the team still under persistent enemy fire, Sergeant Hunter and four teammates cleared a compound to gain cover, preventing further casualties. Upon hearing a call for help, he again exposed himself to fire, rushing outside the compound to drag a wounded teammate 30 meters to safety. For the next two hours he controlled four AC-130U and AH-64D aircraft, continually directing fire on enemy positions, including 105 millimeter rounds to within 13 and 16 meters of his location. He courageously assumed greater risk by occupying the best vantage point to inflict devastating effect on the enemy, preventing the team from being overrun. During exfiltration, he called for airstrikes to suppress heavy enemy fire, and he bravely exposed himself in a field during daylight to mark a landing zone with smoke. Throughout the eight hour assault, Sergeant Hunter alternated between firing his weapon at the enemy and controlling air assets, directing 1,787 munitions in 31 danger-close engagements, most to within 90 meters, resulting in 57 lives saved and 27 enemy killed. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Sergeant Hunter reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
SSgt Robert Gutierrez Jr.
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Staff Sergeant Robert Gutierrez, Jr., United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States in Heart Province, Afghanistan, on 5 October 2009. On that date, while assigned as a combat controller of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, to an Army Special Forces Detachment, Sergeant Gutierrez and his team conducted a high-risk nighttime raid to capture the number two Taliban leader in the region. During the initial assault, the team was attacked with a barrage of rifle and heavy machine-gun fire from a numerically superior and determined enemy force. Sergeant Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route. In great pain and confronting the very real possibility that he would die, Sergeant Gutierrez seized the initiative and refused to relinquish his duties as joint terminal attack controller. Under intense fire, he engaged Taliban fighters with his M-4 rifle and brought airpower to bear, controlling three "danger close" A-10 strafing runs with exceptional precision against enemy forces just 30 feet away. After the first A-10 attack, the team medic performed a needle decompression to re-inflate Sergeant Gutierrez's collapsed lung, allowing him to direct the next two strafe runs which decimated the enemy force and allowed the team to escape the kill zone without additional casualties. Throughout the four-hour battle, Sergeant Gutierrez's valorous actions, at great risk to his own life, helped save the lives of his teammates and dealt a crushing blow to the regional Taliban network. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Sergeant Gutierrez reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
TSgt Timothy A. Wilkinson
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Technical Sergeant Timothy A. Wilkinson, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a 24th Special Tactics Squadron Pararescueman in the vicinity of the Olympic Hotel, Mogadishu, Somalia, during Operation RESTORE HOPE from 3 October 1993 to 4 October 1993. During that period, in response to an incident in which a United States helicopter had been shot down by a rocket propelled grenade, Sergeant Wilkinson conducted a fast rope insertion into the crash site and came under extremely heavy enemy fire from three directions. In the initial rescue effort, he repeatedly exposed himself to intense small arms fire and grenades to clear debris, provide emergency medical treatment to the survivors, and extract dead and wounded members of the crew from the wreckage. On his own initiative, Sergeant Wilkinson broke cover on three separate occasions to locate and provide emergency medical treatment to three Ranger casualties. In doing so, he ignored all concern for his personal safety to cross a 45 meter-wide open area blanketed with intense fire from small arms, and rocket propelled grenades. Sergeant Wilkinson's medical skills and uncommon valor saved the lives of multiple gravely wounded American soldiers in the longest sustained fire fight involving United States combat forces in over 20 years. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Sergeant Wilkinson reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
SrA Zachary J. Rhyner
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Senior Airman Zachary J. Rhyner, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States while serving with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, at Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on 6 April 2008. On that date, while assigned as Special Tactics Combat Controller, Airman Rhyner executed a day rotary-wing infiltration with his Special Forces team to capture high-value insurgents in a village on the surrounding mountains. While climbing near vertical terrain to reach their objective, the team was attacked in a well-coordinated and deadly ambush. Devastating sniper, machine gun, and rocket-propelled grenade fire poured down on the team from elevated and protected positions on all sides, immediately pinning down the assault force. Without regard for his life, Airman Rhyner placed himself between the most immediate threats and provided suppressive fire with his M-4 rifle against enemy fire while fellow teammates were extracted from the line of fire. Airman Rhyner bravely withstood the hail of enemy fire to control eight United States Air Force fighters and four United States Army attack helicopters. Despite a gunshot wound to the left leg and being trapped on a 60-foot cliff under constant enemy fire, Airman Rhyner controlled more than 50 attack runs and repeatedly repelled the enemy with repeated danger close air strikes, several within 100 meters of his position. Twice, his actions prevented his element from being overrun during the intense 6 and a half hour battle. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Airman Rhyner reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
SSgt Christopher G. Baradat
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Staff Sergeant Christopher G. Baradat, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force in Sono Valley, Sheltan District, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 6 April 2013. On that day, while attached to a United States Special Forces Team, Sergeant Baradat displayed extraordinary bravery and complete disregard for his own safety as he and his teammates responded as a quick reactionary force for a pinned down coalition element. Upon notification, Sergeant Baradat, his Special Forces Team and attached Afghan forces sprang into action entering the treacherous Sono Valley, a known sanctuary for Taliban and Al Qaeda militants. As Sergeant Baradat and his team moved through the tight valley on foot, they came under heavy enemy attack as they closed to within 800 meters of the pinned down element. Sergeant Baradat charged through a hail of enemy gunfire, engaging insurgent positions with 30-mm. gun runs from an A-10 aircraft before taking cover in a small compound with a handful of his teammates, approximately 400 meters from the pinned down element. Once in the compound, both ridgelines bordering the valley erupted in gunfire, attacking both Sergeant Baradat's location and that of the pinned down element. As he and his team hunkered down behind cover against the heavy onslaught of enemy firepower, Sergeant Baradat realized he could not effectively communicate with overhead aerial assets from his protected position. With complete disregard for his own safety, Sergeant Baradat moved to the center of the compound into direct enemy fire in order to communicate with orbiting aircraft. Ignoring repeated shouts from his teammate to take cover, over the next three hours Sergeant Baradat calmly directed lethal engagements from A-10 and AC-130 aircraft onto 13 enemy fighting positions consisting of over 100 fighters, while ignoring enemy machine gun rounds impacting all around him, spraying him with dirt. When all friendly forces consolidated and egressed the valley, Sergeant Baradat once again showed incredible bravery when he purposefully jumped onto the running board of the vehicle where he was continuously exposed to enemy fire so he could maintain communications. With rounds again impacting all around him, he continued to control AC-130 and A-10 strikes to destroy the enemy attempting to cut off the coalition forces. Sergeant Baradat's heroic and selfless actions directly resulted in over 50 enemy fighters killed, while saving the lives of over 150 friendly personnel. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Baradat has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.