Articles

This special tactics Airman received a medal upgrade for a dramatic rescue

A combat controller will receive the Air Force's highest combat medal for extraordinary heroism, after a service-wide review of medals awarded since 9/11.


The Air Force Cross will be presented to former Staff Sgt. Christopher Baradat, now separated, who had received the Silver Star medal for his essential role in rescuing 150 coalition members in Afghanistan, April 6, 2013.

Related: Here's what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

"Chris Baradat exemplifies the professionalism, courage and lethality of special tactics Airmen," said Col. Michael E. Martin, the 24th Special Operation Wing commander. "Every day, special tactics Airmen like Chris willingly put themselves in harm's way to fight and win our nation's wars."

While on his third deployment, Baradat was attached to a U.S. Army Special Forces team tasked to support pinned-down coalition forces flanked by enemy fighters in a valley in Kunar Province. As the special forces convoy approached the steep valley, it became clear that the vehicles wouldn't fit through the narrow mountain path.

The Air Force Cross will be presented to former Staff Sgt. Christopher Baradat, now separated, who had previously received the Silver Star medal for his essential role in rescuing 150 coalition members in Afghanistan, April 6, 2013. | Courtesy photo

Baradat and eight others dismounted and sprinted toward the embattled friendly forces, but came under heavy fire within 1,000 meters of their objective. Without hesitation, Baradat identified the enemy's position and called in close air support from A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jets and AC-130 gunships—eliminating the immediate threat. The team pressed toward the friendly forces when they were again pinned down by an avalanche of enemy gunfire from the ridgelines above.

They took cover in a small compound nearby, but the thick walls limited the radio signal, interfering with the ground force's link to the aircraft above. The team was outnumbered and outgunned, Baradat knew it would only be a matter of time before the enemy had them surrounded.

With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Baradat left cover and exposed himself directly to enemy gunfire to communicate with the aircraft above and protect the team. "That was where I needed to be standing to communicate with the aircraft and to get the mission done," he said in an interview from 2014.

Although his team shouted at him to take cover, he systematically began engaging the enemy."I remember repeatedly yelling at him to get behind cover, yet he ignored the warnings, choosing instead to keep fires on the enemy positions," wrote one of his Army Special Forces teammates about the event.

Baradat controlled multiple aircraft while he stood in the open courtyard--sprayed by dirt as rounds impacted the ground near him-- relaying targets he spotted to the aircraft above.

The AC-130 "Spooky" Gunship has a knack for conflict resolution.| US Air Force photo

"Throughout the next two hours, I witnessed (Staff) Sgt. Baradat call for fire and utilize eight different aircraft [six A-10s and two AC-130s] to eliminate the enemy threatening both his team and the friendly forces they were sent to rescue," wrote one of the AC-130 pilots in an after action report. But enemy fire intensified as the single element navigated through the narrow terrain in their armored vehicles, vulnerable to the enemy.

Baradat's radio connection was limited inside the vehicle, so with no hesitation, he positioned himself on the vehicle's running board outside the safety of the vehicle's armor … secured only by a teammate holding onto his belt.

With his body scraping the narrow canyon walls, peppered by falling rocks knocked loose from the heavy machine gun fire, Baradat directed precise strafing runs and bomb drops until the entire team was clear of enemy fire. "You never know what to expect going into any combat situation, but I do feel that the intense and diverse training that I received from … the special tactics community, set me up to handle the stress of the situation," Baradat said of the battle. "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 differently."

Also read: This combat controller kept taking it to the enemy after he was shot in the chest

In the end, Baradat precisely directed 13 500-pound bombs and over 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting, contributing to the safety of 150 troops and destruction of 50 enemy and 13 enemy fighting positions.

Air Force special operators aren't well known, but they have a reputation as brawlers. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

"He is an American hero who did an outstanding job under incredible circumstances, seamlessly integrating air power into a complex and dangerous ground mission," Martin said. The Air Force Cross is presented for extraordinary heroism while engaged in military operations against an enemy of the United States. This is the ninth Air Force Cross to be awarded since 9/11; all have been awarded to special tactics Airmen.

The upgrade was due to a Defense Department-directed review of medals from recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure service members are appropriately recognized for their actions.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James approved nine medal upgrades for eight Airmen, Jan. 17, 2017, including Baradat and Keary Miller, a retired pararescueman from the Air National Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.

"I am extremely humbled to receive this award," Baradat said. "The 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."

NOW WATCH: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

Military Life

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

"Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel," said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over $58,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans' healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you...he really nailed it.


Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, "It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring."

Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

"I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master's Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization."

Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

"Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn't pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!"

Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

Articles

This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

Keep reading... Show less

This is what we know about Area 51

Area 51 is a restricted site in Nevada with an almost cult-like mythology surrounding it. Some people claim it's a standard military operation site, but others swear that it within its gated walls exists proof about extraterrestrial life.

Before we get into public knowledge, I want to throw in my thoughts on this. I was an intelligence officer in the Air Force and I maybe shouldn't post this on the internet but my final assignment was in a place that rhymes with Rational Maturity Agency, and while the government definitely does some cool classified work there, I can say with high confidence that no one would be able to keep aliens a secret. At least not the kinds of aliens we tell stories about. Maybe Area 51 has some petri dishes of extraterrestrial amoebas...but I really doubt it.

You can even see Area 51 on Google Maps. (PS: Just south of Area 51 is a place called "Sugar Bunker" and a brothel called "Alien Cathouse" — two locations I find much more shady and secretive than any military base.)

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

Keep reading... Show less

Here's the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Troops die in battle — it's an unfortunate fact, but it's the nature of the job. Countless men and women have sacrificed themselves to protect their fellow service members, their friends and family back home, and the lifestyle we enjoy here in the U.S.

"Battlefield crosses" were created to honor the fallen. A deceased troop's rifle is planted, barrel-first, into their boots (or, in some cases, the ground) and their helmet is placed atop the rifle. Like all things military, this cross is part of a long-standing tradition — a tradition that has evolved since its first use on the battlefields of the American Civil War.

Despite the fact that it's called a cross, there's no single religious ideology attached to the practice.

Keep reading... Show less

4 workouts that burn the most calories per hour

Service members have busy schedules, so it can be challenging to carve out time enough to burn those calories. Most of us exercise for about an hour each time we put on our PT gear. Typically, those workouts consists of a multi-mile run alongside our squadmates.

After the PT session, many troops call it a day, but other service members are looking to get as jacked as possible as quickly as they can — which leads us to the burning question:

Which workouts burn the most calories in the least time?

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

Why the 'Good Cookie' isn't a guaranteed medal

The Good Conduct Medal is one of the easiest medals an enlisted troop can earn. It's an award given to enlisted personnel for every three years of "honorable and faithful service." During times of war, the GCM can given out at one year of good service and can be posthumously awarded to service members killed in the line of duty.

But the GCM isn't the same as a service stripe, which is given to soldiers every three years, Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen every four years, and is never given to airmen. To earn a GCM, you need to keep your nose clean (or don't get caught doing something you shouldn't) for three years. If you're a solider, boom, that's an instant 10 promotion points.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

This workhorse of Army aviation is over 40 years old

The UH-60 Black Hawk has been a mainstay of the United States Military since it was first delivered in 1978. This highly versatile helicopter has since served with all five branches of the armed services and has even found a home with other agencies, like U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well.

The primary purpose of the Black Hawk is to haul troops — at least 11 of them — but it's also very capable of hauling cargo — it can support 9,000 pounds hanging from a cargo hook. Versions of this helicopter also serve as medevacs, in command and control capacities, and as support to special operations forces. Some even pack a lot of firepower and take to the skies as gunships.

Keep reading... Show less