An Air Force Combat Controller will be awarded the Air Force Cross – the service’s second-highest decoration for valor – for actions during a 2009 firefight in Afghanistan.
Taliban fighters had ambushed TSgt Robert Gutierrez and a team of Army Special Forces soldiers from 7th Special Forces Group, pinning them down in a building with no escape route. Gutierrez had been shot, had a collapsed lung, and broken ribs. Despite his injuries, he refused to set down his M4 rifle or stop using his radio to call in deadly air strikes against the enemy – even while the team’s medic was treating his injuries.
Gutierrez called for three A-10s strafing runs on the Taliban, directing the deadly fire as close as 30 feet from the Americans.
Gutierrez’ air support destroyed the Taliban fighters and allowed the unit to get out alive.
“It never is about oneself; it is always about the others first, then you last,” said Gutierrez, who at the time was assigned to Pope Air Force Base’s 21st Special Tactics Squadron. “I had a second to think about not making it. After that, I told myself that I was going to get up and fight. I had an unborn child to see and my wife and family to come home to.”
And military.com reports that another veteran of the Battle of Ganjgal, Capt. William Swenson, has been nominated for the Medal of Honor. Former Marine Dakota Meyer also participated in the battle and was awarded the Medal of Honor this month at the White House and his citation can be read here.
It was rumored that Swenson would not be considered for the Medal due to his criticism of the rules of engagement that played a role in denying artillery support from the ambushed unit. Five American troops, eight Afghan soldiers, and their interpreter were killed in the fighting, and 20 were wounded.
Meyer says it is “ridiculous” that Swenson hasn’t been recognized yet: “I’ll put it this way,” Meyer said in an interview. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive today.”
Two other Marines were awarded the Navy Cross for their role in the engagement.