Two retired US Air Force Special Tactics Airmen received upgraded medals on Thursday: both received the Air Force Cross. The two received the honors at the same time at Hurlburt Field in Florida. The Air Force Cross is the USAF’s 2nd highest medal for valor in combat.
The Air Force Cross is second only to the Medal of Honor. It is relatively rarely issued. Both men had previously received the Silver Star.
Master Sergant Keary Miller- “just doing my job”
MSG Miller of the Kentucky Air National Guard, was leading a search and rescue mission on March 4, 2002 near Marzak, Afghanistan during what came to be known as the “Battle of Robert’s Ridge” or the “Battle of Takur Ghar.” Two Americans were hiding from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the region, and needed to be rescued.
The Battle of Taku Ghar was one of the first major battles in the initial part of the war in Afghanistan.
While MSG Miller was riding in an MH-47 Chinook helicopter, the enemy unleashed a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire at the helo – it crash landed. Three team members were killed, and five critically injured.
According to the Air Force Times,
Miller trudged through deep snow and crossed open danger areas on the battlefield to aid the wounded troops.
He then removed M203 grenade launcher and 5.56 rounds from the deceased and moved through RPG, mortar and small-arms fire to distribute the ammunition to troops who needed it.
After another attack erupted, killing one of the other pararescuemen, Miller ran through lines of fire to move the wounded to a more covered area, according to the citation.
His actions delivered 10 “gravely wounded” and 7 deceased servicemen to safety. He said though he was honored to receive the medal, he was just doing his job.
SSgt Chris Baradat
Staff Sgt Baradat was attached to a US Army Special Forces Team in the Sono Valley region of Afghanistan. A coalition team was pinned down and needed assistance.
On April 6, 2013, SSgt Baradat and his team entered the valley on foot, and immediately came under fire. After his team took over a small compound, he realized that from the protected place, he could not effectively communicate to bring in covering aircraft fire.
So he moved. He moved into the open part of the compound, into the direct line of enemy fire.
“Ignoring shouts from his teammates to take cover from the machine gun fire hitting the ground all around him, he spent the next three hours directing six A-10 Warthogs and two AC-130 gunships onto 13 enemy fighting positions with more than 100 fighters, according to the citation.
When the friendly forces consolidated, Baradat jumped onto the running board of a vehicle, again exposing himself to enemy fire, to maintain communications with the aircraft overhead. Because of his actions, the A-10s and AC-130s were able to destroy the enemy attempting to cut off the coalition forces.”
Baradat’s actions were directly responsible for killing 50 enemy fighters and saving 150 “friendly” personnel.
All in all, these men are just two of the many US forces personnel that are heroes. In the cases of Miller and Baradat, they survived to fight another day. As we are aware, many do not.
Featured photos- Left, MSG Keary Miller; Right, SSgt Chris Baradat