HomeNewsArticle Display

SecAF awards Air Force Cross, 10 medals to Air Commandos

SECAF awards Air Force Cross, 10 medals to Air Commandos

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson pins the Air Force Cross on Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a 23rd Special Tactics Squadron special tactics Airman, during a combined medal ceremony, Oct. 17, 2017, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Wilson awarded ten Air Force Special Operations Command air commandos valorous medals, including the Air Force Cross, for their combined efforts during a fierce firefight in a village near Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2016. Hunter, a combat controller, was awarded the Air Force Cross and nine aircrew members on Spooky 43, a 4th Special Operations Squadron AC-130U Gunship, received Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals with valor. Their actions on the ground, and in the air, were credited with saving more than 50 lives and eliminating 27 enemy forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

SECAF awards Air Force Cross, 10 medals to Air Commandos

Hundreds of service members, family and friends salute the flag while the National Anthem plays during a combined medal ceremony, Oct. 17, 2017, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson awarded ten Air Force Special Operations Command air commandos valorous medals, including the Air Force Cross, for their combined efforts during a fierce firefight in a village near Kunduz Province, Afghanistan on Nov. 2, 2016. Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, was awarded the Air Force Cross and nine aircrew members on Spooky 43, a 4th Special Operations Squadron AC-130U Gunship, received Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals with valor. Their actions on the ground, and in the air, were credited with saving more than 50 lives and eliminating 27 enemy forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

SECAF awards Air Force Cross, 10 medals to Air Commandos

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks during a combined medal ceremony, Oct, 17, 2017, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Wilson awarded ten Air Force Special Operations Command air commandos valorous medals, including the Air Force Cross, for their combined efforts during a fierce firefight in a village near Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2016. Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, was awarded the Air Force Cross and nine aircrew members on Spooky 43, a 4th Special Operations Squadron AC-130U Gunship, received Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals with valor. Their actions on the ground, and in the air, were credited with saving more than 50 lives and eliminating 27 enemy forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

SECAF awards Air Force Cross, 10 medals to Air Commandos

Hundreds of service members perform Memorial Pushups in honor of the fallen following a combined medal ceremony, Oct. 17, 2017, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Wilson awarded ten Air Force Special Operations Command air commandos valorous medals, including the Air Force Cross, for their combined efforts during a fierce firefight in a village near Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2016. Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, was awarded the Air Force Cross and nine aircrew members on Spooky 43, a 4th Special Operations Squadron AC-130U Gunship, received Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals with valor. Their actions on the ground, and in the air, were credited with saving more than 50 lives and eliminating 27 enemy forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick)

SECAF awards Air Force Cross, 10 medals to Air Commandos

Two AC-130U Spooky Gunships perform a flyover during a combined medal ceremony, Oct. 17, 2017, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson awarded ten Air Force Special Operations Command air commandos valorous medals, including the Air Force Cross, for their combined efforts during a fierce firefight in a village near Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2016. Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, was awarded the Air Force Cross and nine aircrew members on Spooky 43, a 4th Special Operations Squadron AC-130U Gunship, received Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals with valor. Their actions on the ground, and in the air, were credited with saving more than 50 lives and eliminating 27 enemy forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick)

SECAF awards Air Force Cross, 10 medals to Air Commandos

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson applauds four members of Spooky 43, an AC-130U Spooky Gunship aircrew assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron, after presenting them Air Medals with valor, Oct. 17, 2017, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Wilson awarded ten Air Force Special Operations Command air commandos valorous medals, including the Air Force Cross, for their combined efforts during a fierce firefight in a village near Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2016. Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, was awarded the Air Force Cross and nine aircrew members on Spooky 43, a 4th Special Operations Squadron AC-130U Gunship, received Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals with valor. Their actions on the ground, and in the air, were credited with saving more than 50 lives and eliminating 27 enemy forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

SECAF awards Air Force Cross, 10 medals to Air Commandos

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson presents five members of Spooky 43, an AC-130U Spooky Gunship aircrew assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Oct. 17, 2017, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Wilson awarded ten Air Force Special Operations Command air commandos valorous medals, including the Air Force Cross, for their combined efforts during a fierce firefight in a village near Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2016. Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, was awarded the Air Force Cross and nine aircrew members on Spooky 43, a 4th Special Operations Squadron AC-130U Gunship, received Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals with valor. Their actions on the ground, and in the air, were credited with saving more than 50 lives and eliminating 27 enemy forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

SECAF awards Air Force Cross, 10 medals to Air Commandos

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson leads the official party during a combined medal ceremony, Oct. 17, 2017, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Wilson awarded ten Air Force Special Operations Command air commandos valorous medals, including the Air Force Cross, for their combined efforts during a fierce firefight in a village near Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2016. Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, was awarded the Air Force Cross and nine aircrew members on Spooky 43, a 4th Special Operations Squadron AC-130U Gunship, received Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals with valor. Their actions on the ground, and in the air, were credited with saving more than 50 lives and eliminating 27 enemy forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- The team was trapped, outnumbered and bombarded by grenades and machine gun fire from elevated positions. Bullets ricocheted around them.

Ordnance from circling, friendly aircraft exploded meters from their position, shaking the ground, as smoke from an exploded cache smothered the village.

Their mission was originally to kill or capture high value Taliban leaders that fateful night Nov. 2, 2016, in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, but as the enemy closed in around them, they quickly realized their mission had changed: survive.

SecAF commends Airmen for valor
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson awarded ten valorous medals, including the Air Force Cross, to Air Force Special Operations Command air commandos in a ceremony, Oct. 17, 2017 held at Hurlburt Field.

“This mission was a perfect example of the power of our Special Tactics Airmen when teamed with American airpower and the nation’s elite ground forces,” said Wilson. “It reminds the world of what makes us who we are, and it reminds our enemies that there is no place to hide.”

Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a 23rd Special Tactics Squadron special tactics combat controller, was awarded the Air Force’s highest medal, the Air Force Cross, for gallantry against an armed enemy of the U.S. in combat.

Special Tactics Airmen are the Air Force's ground special operations force, specializing in everything from precision strike to personnel recovery on the battlefield and during humanitarian crises.

Additionally, five members of Spooky 43, the AC-130U gunship aircrew that supported the ground special operations team during the same operation were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses and four received Air Medals with Valor.

The AC-130U “Spooky” gunship’s primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. Close air support missions include supporting troops in contact and providing convoy escort. The gunship is outfitted with 40 mm, 105 mm cannons and a 25 mm Gatling gun for precise and powerful strikes on the battlefield.

"This mission proved to be the ultimate test of our air commandos in air-to-ground integration on the battlefield," said Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, AFSOC commander. "Hunter and Spooky 43's precision strike capabilities were pushed to the limits under extreme fire to eliminate our enemies and defend our joint partners."

The actions of Spooky 43 in the air and Hunter on the ground were credited with eliminating the enemy and saving the lives of the Army special forces team and 43 Afghan soldiers involved in the deadly ambush.

“What was truly extraordinary when I read this story was the amazing precision and professionalism of the team,” said Wilson. “When we need swift, precise violence, we call them. There is no better friend and no worse enemy than the United States special operations forces.”

Chaos on the ground, hate raining from above
Hunter was embedded with a Army special forces team and their Afghan partners when they were ambushed by heavy machine gun fire from an elevated position as they entered a village, Nov. 2, 2016, near Kunduz, Afghanistan.

“We came across a large, metal gate that had been closed prior to our arrival; I want you to imagine something 12 feet tall, about a quarter inch thick steel, a pretty massive piece of metal in front of us,” said Hunter. “We found ourselves in a three-way ambush, 270 degrees all around us.”

Finding themselves trapped in the village, and in a dire situation, Hunter and his team withstood an enemy ambush of grenades and machine gun fire, resulting in four friendly force injuries.

Hunter charged forward under enemy fire, leaving cover to drag a wounded teammate back with one hand, while using his free hand to call in suppressive fire through close air support from the Spooky 43 crew overhead.

“At this point, (the team) is dragging (casualties) down the alleyway while still returning fire, and we’re using all of our weapons on the aircraft to destroy fighting positions and buildings … all within about 12 meters of Staff Sgt. Hunter,” said Maj. Alexander Hill, Spooky 43 aircraft commander. “We told Hunter to put his head down, and we fired closer than I think anyone’s ever fired an air-burst round.”

As the Spooky 43 crew received the calls from Hunter on the ground for the firepower necessary to deter the enemy, they were required to exceed cooling requirements on the 105 mm Howitzer cannon, risking potential detonation inside the aircraft. With their expert skill and coordination, the crew was able to support the ground forces with the 40 mm cannon and at times forced to manually fire rounds called on by Hunter to defeat the enemy.

According to Hill, the crew actively fired every weapon available to them for 107 consecutive minutes during the battle.

"To see the teamwork in particular and how good and professional everyone was, when they absolutely had to be – I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of that,” said Hill.

With the smoke from the battle becoming too thick for the team to maneuver through the village, Hunter took direction from the aircraft overhead as he continued to call in enemy positions. Hunter expended all AC-130U point-detonate 105 mm rounds, with only eight airburst rounds remaining. With the enemy element closing on the ground forces, the aircrew was able to stabilize the aircraft and fire an airburst round, typically used in open fields, at an unprecedented 12 meters from friendly forces, annihilating the insurgents.

Hunter and the Spooky 43 crew worked together to call in fire from AH-64 Apache helicopters, preparing medical helicopters to evacuate casualties and activating the quick reaction force needed to evacuate the friendly forces from the village.

“There was so much chaos on the ground, and everybody above us had our backs completely,” said Hunter. “It was a beautiful, beautiful thing, because as scared as we all were, and as bad as the situation was – at no point did I fear for my life and neither did my brothers because overhead we have these guys in the gunship raining all kinds of hate and taking care of us completely.”

The combined actions of Hunter and the Spooky 43 aircrew proved decisive on the battlefield and demonstrated the enormous impact of AFSOC’s precision strike core mission. Precision strike provides ground forces with specialized capabilities to find, engage and assess targets. This synergy is credited for saving thousands of lives over the last 16 years of war.

"I am extremely proud of what our Airmen accomplished when they were tested on the battlefield," said Webb. "They did what I know every Airman in this command would do when facing a relentless enemy. They overcame, adapted and pushed the boundaries of possible."

Engage

Facebook Twitter
DYK: Aircraft have lifespans! Like humans, they require check-ups in the form of maintenance inspections to prolong their ability to fly. These "checks" prevent in-flight system failures which ultimately protects aircrew and passengers. Learn more from the 86th Maintenance Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany on what it takes to correct issues so aircraft can stay airborne.
WATCH: United States Air Force pilots talk about the importance of Exercise Saber Strike 18 as they refuel over the Baltic Sea on June 18, 2018. Saber Strike 18 is a long-standing training exercise designed to enhance interoperability between the U.S. and our allies. The training focused on improving land and air operational capabilities between the U.S. and our NATO allies. (U.S. Air National Guard video by: Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)
Check out some shots from yesterday's All-Star Armed Services Classic Championship softball game in Washington, D.C. This event, part of MLB’s All-Star Week, pays tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. Washington Nationals U.S. Army
Air Force and U.S. Army coed softball teams render military honors during the playing of the National Anthem during the All-Star Armed Services Classic Championship softball game, Washington, D.C., July 13, 2018. This event, part of MLB’s All-Star Week, pays tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. Washington Nationals
Great way to lead by example!
The United States Air Force is facing a pilot shortage. To help solve the challenge, the Aircrew Crisis Task Force was recently created to provide strategic direction and actionable recommendations to senior leaders on how to solve the aircrew manning crisis. FULL STORY: https://go.usa.gov/xUb3z
Your United States Air Force news: ✓ A B-52 crew assists in a search and rescue operation off the coast of Guam ✓ An Afghan pilot class graduates in the Czech Republic ✓ The Air Force is using innovative approaches to training pilots to make the process faster and more efficient
Now that’s how weathermen work! Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters fly weather reconnaissance missions into Tropical Storm Chris and Tropical Storm Beryl. http://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1569944/hurricane-hunters-fly-tropical-storms-beryl-chris/
The F-22 Raptor's combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities. The F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft. Maintaining these aircraft can involve a bit of a learning curve. Airmen at KadenaAirBase use past technology to help learn how to work with the undefeated Raptor. FULL STORY: http://www.kadena.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1567295/hard-to-raptor-head-around/
Help us out! Can you caption this photo?
The B-52 Stratofortress has sniper pods that provide improved long-range target detection/identification and continuous stabilize surveillance for all missions, including close air support of ground forces. Air Force Global Strike Command crew members on a B-52 were able to spot a historic Pacific Island style canoe so that the U.S. Coast Guard could rescue the six passengers!
For the past 60 years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has continually helped us maintain a technological edge against our advarsaries. Together with the Air Force Research Laboratory - AFRL, a fusion of ideas is leading to newly highlighted innovations.
SOUND ON! Celebrate freedom with the sound of freedom! Happy Independence Day!
These supply #Airmen work 24/7 to ensure there is no break in the mission @RAFMildenhall because #NKAWTGhttps://t.co/biE2BPXVe1
Every #Airman has their reason for serving. Read on as these #Airmen explain what putting on the uniform everyday m… https://t.co/ubeDmY1liq
For the first time in the 63-year history of Operation Deep Freeze, #Airmen from the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Sq… https://t.co/CdeyI4HjHT
#DYK, the #MedalofHonor is the highest award for bravery that can be awarded to members of the United States Armed… https://t.co/qei2LbbD1I
.@388fw’s 4th Fighter Squadron became the first operational unit to fire the F-35A’s the #aircraft’s 25mm cannon on… https://t.co/J7hbXrCSCv
#DYK: The @22ARW is the host unit of McConnell AFB! Its mission is to conduct air refueling & airlift operations su… https://t.co/12bR9cwIuG
RT @71FTW: An aircraft crash has occurred approximately 50 miles west of Vance AFB. Pilot is conscious and with emergency responders. Follo…
.@HQUSAFEPA #Airmen & seven African partner nations strengthened relationships through the African Partnership Flig… https://t.co/FsvAK4n3i3
.@20FighterWing #Airmen learned how to be resilient by taking a leap of faith. https://t.co/WCgebfzEmj https://t.co/5JHPF7P1Px
RT @USAFHealth: A new transition cell was recently stood-up to coordinate and support ongoing transition efforts related to the NDAA and tr…
.@Travis60AMW #Airmen helped the Advanced Extremely High Frequency-4 program complete a major milestone by ensuring… https://t.co/yut12HK3M5
The School of Air Evacuation honored the history, present and future of aeromedical evacuation during their 75th an… https://t.co/5uYoyUwy9z
.@PANationalGuard #Airmen have new and improved parachutes. Read more about the lifesaving equipment:… https://t.co/QC1BGX8Fbl
At the @20FighterWing, munitions #Airmen train and work as a team to load 'em up & move 'em out.… https://t.co/9leaqRS8vI
Imagine trying to use a stethoscope on a plane. The noise makes the tool essentially useless. A new #technology aim… https://t.co/AYMf42Q0Wf
Read about this #Airman's experiences as he serves with the @Aus_AirForce through the Military Personnel Exchange P… https://t.co/6Td7p8u3ZO
RT @HQUSAFEPA: We. Are. NATO. U.S. Air Force F-22s and Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35s conducted training ops over Norwegian airspace toget…
Tune into this edition of Around the #AirForce https://t.co/SFdrh7AIIY
#DYK: Our #militaryworkingdogs are seen at veterinary treatment facilities, ensuring the #K9s are healthy and able… https://t.co/MZE22dcoZ1