Latest 'Portraits in Courage' released

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Russell Petcoff
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The stories of heroism, valor, sacrifice and bravery of 17 Airmen appear in the fourth edition of the Air Force's Portraits in Courage now available.

The stories are compelling: Airmen who call in close-air support following an improvised explosive device attack, save the life of an Afghan interpreter severely wounded and given up for dead, secure the scene of an IED attack, provide life-saving leadership through two attacks on a convoy on one mission. The Airmen's stories also include performing first aid for severe wounds on fellow servicemembers, directing 50 close-air support strikes against enemy forces within 200 meters and rescuing a lost hiker in waist-deep snow.

"Our nation was founded out of a desire to be free, and made prosperous by a firm belief in limitless opportunities," wrote Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, in the preface. "We have always honored our fellow citizens who sacrifice their own welfare to preserve and promote the promise of America.

"The 17 Airmen who are honored in these pages exemplify this spirit," General Schwartz continued. "Whether detecting and diffusing an improvised explosive device, taking up the point position in a combat patrol, or providing life-saving medical care, each of these Airmen answered our nation's call. Their exceptional valor is to be admired and emulated."

Airmen in the fourth edition are:

· Senior Airman Antonio Antunez, Nellis AFB, Nev. He secured his team's position after an IED ambush.

· Master Sgt. David Beals, Hurlburt Field, Fla. He provided direction and leadership during two attacks from a determined enemy during a 200-vehicle convoy mission in the remote Afghanistan countryside.

· Maj. Mary Jo Burleigh, Langley Air Force Base, Va. She saved the life of a severely wounded Afghan interpreter that every one else had given up.

· Tech. Sgt. Robert Butler, Vandenberg AFB, Calif. He was first on the scene looking for secondary devices after an IED exploded wounding five Iraqi policemen.

· Maj. Victoria Elliot, Lackland AFB, Texas. She was under attack in one convoy mission where she provided critical information to determine the enemy's position for a counter-attack plan. Her awareness and evasive driving skill rallied the rest of the convoy forward, out of the kill zone.

· Capt. David W. Golden, Randolph AFB, Texas. He maintained counter-radio controlled IED electronic warfare equipment on more than 250 vehicles. Traveling outside the wire to maintain the equipment, he battled ambushes and IEDs. His convoy was attacked in one mission, he returned fire. Running out of ammunition, he had to switch with multiple weapons to provide protective fire for his team. 

· Staff Sgt. Travis Griffin, deceased. He headed a police transition team that negotiated the worst streets of Baghdad and his mission was to restore law and order while training, mentoring, and coaching Iraqi police. He was killed when an explosively formed penetrator hit his vehicle.

· Maj. Eric Holt, Hurlburt Field, Fla. He was part of a Marine special operations team that was struck by an IED under a vehicle. The blast threw him 35 yards from the vehicle. Despite his severe injuries, he attempted to assess and treat his teammates.

· Staff Sgt. Gary Horn, Charleston AFB, S.C. He was part of a police mentor team with the Afghan National Police training them on battlefield medicine. When the team truck was hit by an IED, he provided essential first aid to save the lives of two wounded policemen.

· Tech. Sgt. James Howard, Maxwell AFB, Ala. He led a combined Air Force-Iraqi Police team to collect intelligence and evidence in a case involving the murder of several Iraqi civilians. His investigative skills proved crucial in the arrest of three murder suspects.

· Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal, Vandenberg AFB. He put down his camera under fire from snipers, picked up a fallen Soldier's weapon, returned fire and moved the team to a safe point where the injured Soldier could be evacuated.

· Tech. Sgt. Matthew Jones, Travis AFB, Calif. Despite his injuries received under fire, he obtained knowledge about an enemy training camp and relayed the information for a successful air attack to destroy it.

· Capt. Scott Link, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. He led the charge into the aftermath of a suicide bomber at his deployed location's front gate, saving the lives of dozens of coalition force people and Afghan nationals.

· Staff Sgt. Zachary Rhyner, Pope AFB, N.C. He directed 50 close-air support strikes against enemy forces within 200 meters of his team.

· Tech. Sgt. Kerry Thompson and Bleck, his military working dog partner, Little Rock AFB, Ark. In one mission providing explosive detection support to Task Force Crazy Horse, he and Bleck cleared more than three miles of roads, detecting two previously missed IEDs to ensure a safe travel route.

· Tech. Sgt. Jason Weiss, Fairchild AFB, Wash. He rescued a lost and injured hiker in the waist-deep snow of Snoqualmie Pass outside Seattle.

· Senior Airman Danny Williams, Luke AFB, Ariz. He "rendered safe" an IED on a main casualty evacuation route in Afghanistan.

This issue is the fourth in a series that began in March 2007. The "Portraits in Courage" series was developed to highlight the honor, valor, devotion and selfless sacrifice of America's Airmen. Read more about these 17 Airmen here.

To see previous web versions, go to and look for the "Portraits in Courage" link on the bottom.