Former A1C Benjamin Hutchins will receive a Silver Star on Nov. 4 during a ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C., for risking his life in a series of actions over three days in November 2009 near the Bala Murghab River in Afghanistan, according to a spokesman from Air Combat Command. Hutchins removed his body armor and jumped in the river in an attempt to rescue two Fort Bragg paratroopers, who had waded into the river to retrieve supplies from an airdrop but were surprised by the strength of the current. The soldiers eventually drowned, but enemy combatants began to fire on Hutchins, who sought to evade their fire by holding only his mouth and nose above the water. Once his unit began to lay down covering fire, Hutchins was able to get out of the river. His unit continued to engage the enemy for a day and a half. At the culmination of this firefight, Hutchins led a three-man team to “directly engage the enemy machine gun nest” that had been firing on him and his unit, ultimately calling in an airstrike to overrun the enemy position. Hutchins was medically retired in 2014 because of injuries sustained from enemy attack in 2012.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.