Force Staff Sgt. Christopher G. Baradat stood in an open Afghan
courtyard as dirt kicked up by enemy bullets hitting the ground around
him sprayed his uniform.
members of the Special Forces team he was attached to shouting for him
to take cover, Baradat instead zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy
fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun
fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
himself to the hostile fire to better communicate with air crews
overhead, Baradat orchestrated the supporting fire that would save the
lives of his team and the allied forces they had been dispatched to
rescue, synchronizing attacks from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft fighting
back with their own barrage of fire, including 25 mm, 30 mm, 40 mm and
105 mm munitions and 500-pound bombs.
A year later, in a ceremony on Fort Bragg, he was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor.
after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan, Baradat is one of eight airmen who will
receive an upgraded medal, according to the Air Force.
a ceremony that has yet to be scheduled, Baradat will be awarded the
Air Force Cross. The honor is reserved for those who show extraordinary
heroism while engaged in military operations against an opposing
foreign force. It’s the second highest award for valor an airman
can receive, short of the Medal of Honor.
who separated from the Air Force in January 2016, was serving with Fort
Bragg’s 21st Special Tactics Squadron during the 2013 deployment
where his valorous actions took place.
Now living in California, he said he was humbled to receive the upgraded award.
men who have previously been awarded the Air Force Cross have done
amazing things on the battlefield, and it is an honor to be a part of
that group,” he said.
spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to
Afghanistan and once as part of a special CIF, or
“commander’s in-extremis force,” response force.
back on the firefight, Baradat said he simply did what he was trained
to do as a member of the Air Force’s elite Special Tactics
community, which includes combat controllers, pararescuemen and other
specially trained airmen.
do not think that what I did that day was heroic; I was completely
focused on coordinating close air support as I was trained to do in
support of my team,” Baradat said. “I witnessed many heroic
acts from the Army Special Forces team, and I hope that they receive
the recognition that they deserve. I also want to thank the A-10 and
AC-130 aircrew that day. Without their support, the day would have
turned out much worse.”
The upgraded medal adds to the legacy of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, based at Fort Bragg’s Pope Field.
squadron is the most decorated unit in modern Air Force history, with
10 Silver Stars and four of the seven Air Force Crosses previously
awarded for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
squadron’s higher command, the 24th Special Operations Wing at
Hurlburt Field, Florida, said Baradat exemplifies the professionalism,
courage and lethality of the Special Tactics community.
day, Special Tactics airmen like Chris willingly put themselves in
harm’s way to fight and win our nation’s wars,” said
Col. Michael Martin, the wing commander. “He is an American hero
who did an outstanding job under incredible circumstances, seamlessly
integrating air power into a complex and dangerous ground
Baradat was deployed with soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group and was serving in Kunar province in April 2013.
and his teammates, including dozens of Afghan troops, served as a quick
reaction force for Afghan allies who were pinned down by enemy
insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary
for Taliban and al-Qaida militants.
in the valley for the rescue mission, Baradat and eight Special Forces
soldiers set out on foot ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which
were slowed by the narrow and restrictive terrain.
half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, Baradat and his
teammates came under fire for the first time in what would become a
nearly three-hour battle.
team sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in
a small mud compound, where Baradat began to communicate with overhead
aircraft to try to repel the attack.
Moving closer to their trapped allies, the intensity of the enemy fire increased.
to communicate with overhead aircraft while hunkered down behind a
wall, Baradat left his concealed position to direct the counterattack
from the open courtyard, ignoring the warnings of his teammates.
the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, Baradat cleared the way for
members of his team to reach their allies and leave the valley, then
continued to direct the counterattack as the convoy left the valley.
never know what to expect going into any combat situation, but I do
feel that the intense and diverse training that I received from some
amazing members of the Special Tactics community set me up to handle
the stress of the situation as best I could,” Baradat said.
“I was only one piece of the puzzle that day; if it wasn’t
for the extreme professionalism and fearless intensity of my Army
Special Forces team, the mission could have turned out a lot