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Portraits in Courage: SSgt. Hunter

  • Published
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
On Nov. 2, 2016, in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, the U.S. Army Special Forces Team he was embedded with and their Afghan partners were ambushed by heavy machine gun fire from insurgents in elevated positions as they entered a village.

Hunter identified multiple enemy locations and directed multiple danger close strikes that were so close that the team was blasted by dirt as they pushed deeper into the village.

Hunter’s team maneuvered through a narrow alley and ran into a locked metal gate that temporarily trapped them in an enemy ambush of grenades and machine gun fire, resulting in four friendly force injuries.

Hunter charged forward under a barrage of enemy fire to shield the wounded with his body while calling in suppressing fire. He coordinated close air support strikes, deconflicted airspace, and maximized fire support from overhead gunships, repelling the enemies’ advance and allowing medics to treat and move casualties.

Smoke from the battle became so thick that the team maneuvered blindly through the village under Hunter’s aircraft-aided direction. The ground force commander received a mortal wound and Hunter again braved enemy fire to protect his wounded teammate.

Hunter initiated the launch of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and casualty evacuation helicopter before joining two teammates to clear adjacent buildings to find temporary refuge from the enemy onslaught.

In the middle of the chaos, Hunter heard someone call for help. Peering over a wall, he saw a member of his team with serious injuries lying exposed, pinned down, and unable to move. Hunter led a fire team back into the kill zone at great risk to their lives to recover their wounded teammate. During this recovery, he directed airstrikes with a radio in one hand while dragging the rescued team member 30 meters to safety with his other hand.After the QRF arrived, the team maneuvered to an open field for helicopter evacuation and were again ambushed. Hunter directed overhead fires to eliminate the threat while helping to load the wounded.

In all, Hunter controlled 31 AC-130 and AH-64 danger close engagements that eliminated 27 enemy forces while saving his team, with the closest precision strike nine feet away.