Captain Barry Crawford Jr.
On May 4, 2010, Captain Barry Craw ford Jr., then a special tactics officer assigned to
the 23rd Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron in Afghanistan, and a team of approximately 100
Army Special Forces and Afghan commandos flew into the steep mountains of Laghman Province.
When the team landed in darkness, they heard enemy chatter on their radios. Within 30 minutes of
landing, they found a substantial weapons cache inside the village. Captain Crawford also received
reports that armed enemy forces were maneuvering into fighting position in the high ground.
As soon as the sun came up, the coalition team came under heavy enemy fire from all sides from
over 100 fighters. The team was pinned down in the middle of the village and had no choice
but to run the gauntlet of enemy fire. Enemy fighters used sniper and machine-gun fire to target
the friendly forces, and as insurgent forces closed in, three Afghan commandos were gravely
wounded and two others were killed. Recognizing that the wounded Afghan soldiers would die
without medical evacuation (medevac), Captain Crawford ran into the open to guide a medevac
helicopter to the landing zone. Even though one of his radio antennas was shot off mere inches
from his face, without hesitation Captain Crawford ran across the open terrain, engaging enemy
positions with his rifle and calling in AH-64 strafe attacks. This allowed the medevac team to
move in toward the casualties. As the casualties were being moved, the team was once again
pinned down by enemy forces that were threatening the medevac landing zone. Stuck in an
open, narrow valley with mountain cliffs around them, the medevac helicopter took small arms
fire and was able to depart with only four of the five casualties. With the enemy only 150 meters
away at times, Captain Crawford once again called for “danger-close” attacks from AH-64 and
F-15E aircraft overhead. In order to mark the enemy locations, he exposed himself to enemy fire
by running more into the open and engaged the enemy while directing airstrikes. As a result, the
medevac helicopter was able to return and exfiltrate the last casualty. Throughout the harrowing
10 hour fight, Captain Crawford braved effective enemy fire and consciously placed himself at
grave risk on four occasions, all while controlling over 33 aircraft and more than 40 airstrikes
on a well-trained and prepared enemy force. More than 80 insurgents were killed during the
engagement, including three high-ranking enemy commanders.
For his brave actions that day, Captain Crawford was awarded the Air Force Cross, the second highest military decoration, behind the Medal of Honor, that can be awarded to an Airman. * Captain Crawford was a special tactics officer when this event occured but is now training to become an Air Force pilot.