Former Special Tactics Airman Will Receive Air Force Cross

SSgt. Christopher Baradat, a now-separated special tactics airman, will receive the Air Force Cross for extraordinary heroism related to his actions in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on April 6, 2013. Baradat had previously received a Silver Star for his actions, but he was one of eight airmen whose valor medals were recently upgraded by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the DOD award reviews, which were ordered by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in January 2016, are crucial. “It is really important to the force that we recognize heroism when it occurs,” he said, according to a DOD release. “What we’ve seen is additional facts have come in, an additional review has taken place and some awards have been upgraded.”

Baradat was on his third deployment in 2013 when the Army Special Forces unit he was attached to was ordered to support coalition troops trapped in a Kunar valley and surrounded by enemy fighters, according to a press release. When the mountainous valley walls became too narrow, Baradat and eight others left their armored vehicles and proceeded on foot through heavy enemy fire. Baradat called in close air support from A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jets and AC-130 gunships, stepping out of shelter into direct fire on several occasions in order to re-establish radio signal. Once the rescued forces had joined his team, Baradat continued to call in air support by standing on the running board of his armored vehicle, supported by a team member grabbing his belt, with his body scraping the sides of the canyon walls. He is credited with helping to save 150 coalition members. “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. “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.”