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Air Force Cross
Awarded by Department of the Air Force
Type Military medal
Eligibility Persons serving in the U.S. Air Force
Awarded for "Extraordinary heroism not justifying the Medal of Honor while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States."
Status Currently awarded
First awarded January 8, 1964[1]
Last awarded April 12, 2012[2]
Total awarded 195
Next (higher) Medal of Honor
Equivalent Army - Distinguished Service Cross
Navy-Marine Corps - Navy Cross
Coast Guard - Coast Guard Cross
Next (lower) Distinguished Service Medals: Defense, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard
Air Force Cross ribbon.svg
Air Force Cross Ribbon

The Air Force Cross is the second highest military award that can be given to a member of the United States Air Force.[3] The Air Force Cross is the Air Force decoration equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross (Army) and the Navy Cross (Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard).

The Air Force Cross is awarded for extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of the Medal of Honor. It may be awarded to any individual who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S Air Force, distinguishes him or herself by extraordinary heroism in combat.

Origins[edit | edit source]

Originally entitled the "Distinguished Service Cross (Air Force)",[4] the Air Force Cross was first proposed in 1947 after the creation of the United States Air Force as a separate armed service. The medal was designed by Eleanor Cox, an employee of the Air Force, and was sculpted by Thomas Hudson Jones of the Institute of Heraldry. The Air Force Cross was established by Congress in Public Law 88-593 on July 6, 1960, amending Section 8742 of Title 10, U.S. Code to change the designation of "Distinguished Service Cross" to "Air Force Cross" in case of awards made under Air Force Authority.[5]

Additional awards of the Air Force Cross are annotated by oak leaf clusters,[6] and the reverse of every Air Force Cross is engraved with the recipient's name.

Criteria for award[edit | edit source]

Title 10, Section 8742. Air Force Cross: Award

"The President may award an Air Force Cross of appropriate design, with ribbons and appurtenances, to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the Air Force, distinguishes himself by extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor:

  • while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
  • while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party."[7]

Description[edit | edit source]

The Air Force Cross consists of a bronze cross with an oxidized satin finish. Centered on the obverse of the cross is a gold-plated American bald eagle, wings displayed against a cloud formation, (as used on the seal of the Air Force). This design is encircled by a laurel wreath in green enamel, edged in gold. The reverse of the cross is blank and suitable for engraving.[5]

The service ribbon has a very wide center stripe of Brittany blue with narrow stripes of white and red at the edges. The ribbon is almost identical to that of the Distinguished Service Cross, except for the lighter blue center stripe, indicating the close connection of these awards.[5]

Awards[edit | edit source]

The first award of that Air Force Cross was made posthumously to Major Rudolf Anderson for extraordinary heroism during the Cuban Missile Crisis.[5]

As of May 2010, there have been 195 awards of the Air Force Cross to 190 individuals. One award, the first made, was for actions in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Three were retroactively awarded for actions in World War II. 180 were awarded for heroism in the Vietnam War,[8] and four for heroism during the 1975 Mayagüez Incident immediately following. Two were awarded for the 1991 Gulf War, one for the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia, and two were awarded for heroism during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2003. One was awarded to combat controller Zachary Rhyner for actions in the Shok Valley, Afghanistan on April 6, 2008.[9]

50 awards have been posthumous, including 30 to members missing in action. 24 have been awarded to enlisted personnel, including 11 pararescue jumpers. 17 graduates of the United States Air Force Academy have been presented the award, and 13 were awarded for conduct while a prisoner of war.

There have been four multiple recipients:

Notable recipients[edit | edit source]

SSgt Zachary Rhyner receiving the Air Force Cross from Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley.

Recent Recipients[edit | edit source]

Since the Vietnam War, as of September 2012, only eight[10] Air Force Crosses have been awarded — two during Operation Desert Storm, one during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu and five during Operation Enduring Freedom.

      Lavender background and indicates that the Air Force Cross was awarded posthumously

Name Rank Unit Date of action Occupation Notes
Paul T. Johnson Captain 354th Tactical Fighter Wing January 21, 1991 A-10 Pilot Led search for downed U.S. pilot deep inside enemy territory allowing for the pilot to be successfully rescued.[11]
William F. Andrews Captain 10th Tactical Fighter Squadron February 27, 1991 F-16 Pilot After being shot down by air defenses near Basra, Iraq he directed friendly air forces to utilize flares preventing them from being shot down by Iraqi surface-to-air missiles.[12]
Timothy A. Wilkinson Technical Sergeant 24th Special Tactics Squadron October 3–4, 1993 Pararescue (PJ) Saved the lives of multiple rangers despite significant self risk during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.[13]
John Chapman Technical Sergeant 24th Special Tactics Squadron March 4, 2002 Combat Control (CCT) Gallantry near Gardez, in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan during the Battle of Takur Ghar.[14]
Jason D. Cunningham Senior Airman 38th Rescue Squadron March 4, 2002 Pararescue (PJ) Ten injured soldiers survived the Battle of Takur Ghar due to his medical care despite a mortal wound.[14]
Zachary Rhyner Senior Airman 21st Special Tactics Squadron April 6, 2008 Combat Control (CCT) During the Battle of Shok Valley, called in over 50 attack runs to prevent his Special Forces team from being overrun.[15]
Robert Gutierrez Jr. Staff Sergeant 321st Special Tactics Squadron October 5, 2009 Combat Control (CCT) Saved the Special Forces team to which he was attached by repeatedly calling in close air support despite a chest wound.[16]
Barry F. Crawford, Jr. Captain 321st Special Tactics Squadron May 4, 2010 Special Tactics Officer (STO) During a fourteen hour battle following an ambush, directed a MEDEVAC rescue and called in close air support to allow ground forces to exfiltrate without massive casualties.[17]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr.". Air Force Link (USAF). Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. http://web.archive.org/web/20090303102002/http://www.af.mil/history/spotlight_print.asp?storyID=123009509. Retrieved 9 February 2009. 
  2. "Special tactics officer receives AF Cross". Air Force Times. http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2012/04/air-force-cross-awarded-barry-crawford-afghanistan-041312/. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  3. Air Force Instruction 36-2803 Table 2.1: http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/shared/media/epubs/AFI36-2803.pdf
  4. Air Force Cross
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Air Force Cross". Air Force Link (USAF). Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. http://archive.is/4brj. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 
  6. "Title 10, Sub-Title D Air Force, Part II Personnel, Chapter 857 Awards and Decorations, §8744". Cornell University Law School. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. http://web.archive.org/web/20090302222703/http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode10/usc_sec_10_00008744----000-.html. Retrieved 9 February 2009. 
  7. "Title 10, Sub-Title D Air Force, Part II Personnel, Chapter 857 Awards and Decorations, §8742". Cornell University Law School. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. http://web.archive.org/web/20090303002434/http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode10/usc_sec_10_00008742----000-.html. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  8. There were actually 181 awards during the Vietnam War, but one, to Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
  9. Ramsey, John, "Airman Gets Medal For Valor", Fayetteville Observer, March 11, 2009, p. 1.
  10. "Hall of Heroes Air Force Cross Recipients". http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/search.php?medal=4. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  11. "Military Times Hall of Valor: Paul T. Johnson". http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=3546. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  12. "Military Times Hall of Valor: William F. Andrews". http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=3547. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  13. "The Air Force Cross For Actions in Somalia in 1993". http://www.homeofheroes.com/members/02_AFC/cite_6somalia.html. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "The Air Force Cross In The Global War on Terrorism". http://www.homeofheroes.com/members/02_AFC/cite_7wot.html. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  15. "Military Times Hall of Valor: Zachary J. Rhyner". http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=3601. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  16. "Portraits in Courage Feature - Vol V Staff Sergeant Robert Gutierrez". http://usafeenlistedheritage.org/distinguished/milestone-achievers/detail/?id=41. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  17. "Military Times Hall of Valor: Barry F. Crawford Jr.". http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=54966. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 

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