Gutierrez Receives Air Force Cross

SSgt. Robert Gutierrez Jr., an instructor at the Air Force Special Operations Training Center at Hurlburt Field, Fla., joined an elite group of airmen when he became only the second living recipient of the Air Force Cross—the service’s second highest medal for valor in combat—since 9/11. Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff, presented the medal to Gutierrez during a ceremony at Hurlburt on Oct. 27. Schwartz said Gutierrez possesses “the modesty that is characteristic of the quiet professional” who “would hardly hesitate to claim” that he was “merely performing” as trained. On Oct. 5, 2009, Gutierrez, a combat controller, was part of a special operations team ambushed by insurgents during a night raid in Herat province, Afghanistan. Gutierrez suffered a bullet wound, two collapsed lungs, and a busted eardrum, yet he successfully directed repeated danger close air strikes against the determined enemy during the four-hour battle, saving the lives of everyone on his team. Gutierrez said his medal “is for every airman who is fighting” and “their sacrifice.” He added, “I just get the honor of wearing [the medal] for them.” (Hurlburt report by Rachel Arroyo) (For more on Gutierrez, read Once More Unto the Breach from Air Force Magazine’s October issue.) (See also Hurlburt report by Maj. Kristi Beckman on Gutierrez and the Army medic who saved his life that night.)