Afghanistan: a medal for a hero

**Posted by Phineas

Captain Barry Crawford today receives the Air Force Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, for exceptional bravery under fire in the eastern part of that country. Acting as the forward air controller for a Special Forces detachment on patrol with the Afghan Army, Captain Crawford exposed himself to Taliban fire while calling in airstrikes and directing rescue helicopters during an enemy ambush described as “shooting fish in a barrel” — and we were the fish.

He did this not once, but four times:

The 31-year-old native of suburban Philadelphia is a special operations combat controller — a battlefield airman who calls in air strikes and provides communications during covert missions.

“Our primary weapon is not our sidearm or rifle,” Crawford said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s actually our radio.”

That’s part of what makes it all the more noteworthy that Crawford exposed himself to insurgent fire in an open field to guide in a medical evacuation helicopter and twice again exposed himself to launch attacks on militant positions with his assault rifle. This was all the while controlling 33 aircraft and well over 40 strafing and bombing airstrikes during a 14-hour ambush and battle in eastern Afghanistan.

“Capt. Crawford braved effective enemy fire and consciously placed himself at grave risk on four occasions,” the citation from President Barack Obama says. “His selfless actions and expert airpower employment neutralized a numerically superior” insurgent force.

Crawford and Army special forces, who were mentoring Afghan commandos, were on a mission to move through a local village, search houses for weapons and meet local residents, “just trying to talk to them and see what’s going on, gather some intelligence,” he said. They were told the village was sympathetic to the Taliban and to expect 10 to 15 fighters in the region.

But someone had tipped off insurgents and the mission quickly turned into what Crawford called “a battle of survival.”

The U.S. and Afghan troops found the village largely empty but laced with tunnels, and “each house was like a little fortress in itself (fitted with) firing ports,” Crawford said.

Eventually more than 100 insurgents converged on the area.

Final tally: no Americans seriously hurt, three wounded Afghan commandos, and 80 dead Taliban.

Largely thanks to Captain Barry Crawford (USAF).

Yeah, I’d say he earned his medal.

PS: Men and women such as Crawford, who can keep their heads under fire and do what needs to be done, will forever amaze me — and forever leave me grateful they’re on our side. Me, I’d probably have been curled up behind a rock, crying for my mother. There have been so many stories of military heroics from both Iraq and Afghanistan; I wish the press would give them more prominent coverage.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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