Almost exactly two years ago, the U.S. Air Force awarded three U.S. special operations airmen with top valor awards in recognition of their bravery and heroism during the Operation Freedom mission in Afghanistan on Sept. 27, 2014 — bravery and heroism that we should never forget.
Lt. Gen. Bradley A. Heithold, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, awarded Senior Airman Dustin T. Temple the rare Air Force Cross. The medal, which honors heroism in combat, an award bested in significance only by the Medal of Honor.
Heithold also presented Tech. Sgt. Matthew J. Greiner and Senior Airman Goodie J. Goodman the Silver Star, which is two levels below the Medal of Honor.
Temple, Greiner and Goodman, combat controllers with the 24th Special Operations Wing, were embedded with a Special Forces team in the turbulent Helmand Province, Afghanistan, with the mission to disrupt enemy operations. The team included 21 Americans and 60 Afghan commandos, according to The Washington Post.
Insurgents quickly ambushed the team and planned to take some of them hostage, but the special-tactics airmen had another plan.
The Post reported that Temple put himself in the line of enemy fire rescuing a soldier who had been shot, carrying him to safety and a waiting helicopter.
Greiner and Goodman, at a different compound, faced similar dangers. Greiner coordinated airstrikes while facing insurgents in 20 separate positions, according to his citation. Goodman was credited with securing his rooftop position as bullets narrowly missed his head.
A video of the incident revealed the danger the men faced as fighter jets flew overhead and dropped bombs.
Heithold credited the controllers with responding instinctively and immediately while assessing the situation.
The Air Force reported that during the award ceremony on Wednesday at the Pope Army Airfield in North Carolina, the general told the men: “You are the guardians who run toward the sound of the guns and not away from them. Your bravery, your intensity and your pure guts … you epitomize what being an Air Commando is all about.”
“Not everyone deserves to be called a hero,” he added. “You do.”
These airmen displayed the kind of courage many of us only see in movies. They deserve these awards for risking their lives in the face of enemy fire.
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