Pararescuemen Earn Bronze Stars for Bravery in Afghanistan

Two pararescuemen on Oct. 1 received Bronze Stars with Valor for their roles in saving the lives of partner forces in two separate fights in Afghanistan in 2019.

Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki, Airmen serving in the 48th Rescue Squadron, received the nation’s fourth-highest military honor during a ceremony at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. They credited training before their deployment for saving the lives of special operations forces overseas.

“The experience and brotherhood created with my team overseas is the most valuable piece for me,” Brudnicki said in an Oct. 7 release. “The Air Force best utilizes its special warfare assets when putting them to work in the joint environment, and I am proud to be a part of that.”

Fagan, then assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, was attached to a team of Army Special Operations Detachment Force Alpha and Afghan Special Forces that was raiding Taliban-controlled Sangin on March 24, 2019. As the team approached an enemy compound, they were attacked by small-arms fire from a fortified position as well as an improvised explosive device, according to the award citation.

Gunfire wounded an Afghan commando, and Fagan responded despite the onslaught.

“The heavy small-arms fire, coupled with rocket-propelled grenade blasts and multiple [IED] detonations pinned down the Afghan Special Forces team and hindered access to the critically wounded casualty,” the citation stated. “Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Sgt. Fagan took immediate control of the dire situation and engaged the fortified enemy position, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy fire.”

Fagan shot back to allow the rest of his team to reach the Afghan commando. He then treated the casualty, called for a medical evacuation, and moved the commando to the helicopter landing zone as gunshots and grenade fire continued. He also provided cover for the helicopters to land, according to the citation.

“The culmination of Sgt. Fagan’s exceptionally brave actions and speed of patient delivery led to the destruction of an enemy weapons cache, the elimination of five enemy insurgents, and ultimately saved the life of a coalition partner,” the citation states.

At the ceremony, Fagan said training with other rotorcraft gave him the confidence to quickly call in a medevac.

“I knew what I was capable of,” he said. “I knew I could treat that guy under fire in the dark.”

Brudnicki, the other honoree, was also assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar when he was attached to a Special Forces ODA and Afghan commando team on May 3, 2019.

During a counterinsurgency mission in Helmand Province, they approached a village that was a known Taliban stronghold. When they breached the first “compound of interest,” the assault team heard an enemy group nearby was preparing for an engagement.

“[Brudnicki] and his team utilized the Taliban’s own kill holes against them with decisive small-arms fire,” the citation stated. “At distances of less than 5 feet, he engaged relentlessly with personal weapons and hand grenades,  despite their cover being damaged with a rocket that failed to detonate.”

A civilian was hurt in the fight, and Brudnicki braved “effective enemy fire from an adjacent compound” while running through an open courtyard to rescue and stabilize the wounded person. Another call for aid came when an Afghan commando was severely wounded and pinned down.

“He rushed to join the fight and engaged the enemy’s fortified position by again crossing the open courtyard and exposing himself to grave danger,” according to the citation. “He successfully suppressed the enemy, allowing partner force commandos to remove the casualty from the courtyard.”

Brudnicki then set up a place where they could gather wounded troops, and created a plan to transport blood and evacuate people.

“His actions resulted in the seven enemies killed in action, including a Taliban commander, and saved the lives of two coalition partners,” the citation states.