29 September 2011

Air Force combat controller who saved lives while injured to receive Air Force Cross

Air Force combat controller Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez describes how he saved lives by continuing to return small arms fire and call in air strikes even after being seriously injured. (“I don’t get paid to sit there and fall down. I get paid to fight and do my job.”) His actions have earned him a nomination for the Air Force Cross for valor, to be awarded this Fall.

The Air Force Times:

Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez felt the pressure building in his chest. He couldn’t breathe. When he tried to talk, blood gushed from his mouth and nose. Gunfire popped and rocket-propelled grenades exploded nearby.

Gutierrez had seen an injury like this before. He figured he had about three minutes before he bled out.

“At that point, I decided I’m not going to be a burden to the rest of my team,” he said. “I’m not going to be dead weight to them. I’m going to do as much as I can, as long as I can, until it’s over.”

Oct. 5, 2009, is the day Gutierrez is convinced he would have died if a medic hadn’t jabbed a syringe into his collapsed lung.

Minutes later, Gutierrez himself saved the lives of a dozen U.S. soldiers in the Army Special Forces unit he was assigned to as a combat controller.

Read the rest of the story about Gutierrez’s extraordinary bravery and unwavering dedication that night nearly two years ago which have earned him a nomination for an Air Force Cross. Gutierrez will be the fourth recipient of the Air Force Cross for actions in Afghanistan, and the first since then-Senior Airman Zachary Rhyner received the honor in 2009.

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