Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller attached to the Hurlburt Field, Fla.-based 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, will receive the Air Force Cross — the service’s second-highest award for valor in combat.

According to official records, Hunter earned the honor for his actions during an ambush and subsequent firefight between U.S. Army Special Forces and Afghan troops and an enemy contingent on Nov. 2, 2016. Hunter was serving on the team that was seeking a “high value target” at the time, Air Force Magazine reported Oct. 16.

What had started out as a “normal” amount of fire soon increased, and the Army unit to which Hunter was attached began taking fire from all sides. Twenty comrades quickly were wounded.

While Hunter assisted in carrying the wounded to safety, he called in air strikes by an Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunship — often to positions as close as 40 feet away from his own. Hearing a cry for help, he braved enemy machine gun fire to drag the wounded comrade out of harm’s way.
With the enemy ambushers continuing to pour toward his position, Hunter requested that the AC-130 fire 105-millimeter rounds — typically reserved for targets considerably farther away. The heavy ammunition eventually quelled the attack. Hunter and his team were evacuated by helicopter the following morning, after eight hours of continuous fighting. He is credited with helping save the lives of 57 comrades, and killing 27 enemy fighters.
Maj. Alexander Hill, the AC-130’s pilot, will receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in the fight. Hill is attached to the Hurlburt Field-based 4th Special Operations Squadron.