In 2009, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez found himself in the middle of a fierce firefight, one were he was eventually awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism.
Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC). In his role, he works with support aircraft for the military like the A-10. JTACS assist with calling in strikes when ground operations need the extra support.
Gutierrez was tasked with assisting an raid with Army special forces attempting to capture a Taliban target living outside the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan. During the nighttime raid, the unit took on heavy fire.
Gutierrez was shot in the chest and his team leader was shot in the leg. The ten men found themselves stuck with no way out.
Finding A Solution
He said, that they were getting “hammered, getting peppered.” The team leader wanted to use bombs on their enemy. he disagreed with his leader’s assessment.
If you put a bomb on that, it’ll kill us all. Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”Sgt. Robert Gutierrez
The head of the team and Gutierrez were discussing this while taking on bullets and firing back. A medic was also working on Gutierrez’s wound to figure out where the bullet entered, though it was a through-and-through.
The men desperately needed the assistance of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as a Warthog. The A-10 used 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds that were the size of beer bottles. The A-10’s were used for precise strikes on enemy forces.
An A-10 pilot at the Kandahar Airfield had an F-16 pilot to mark his target with a laser. When the A-10 attacked, it was so close that Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst. His left sustained severe damage.
In his effort to get away from the area, Gutierrez lost five-and-a-half pints of blood. The medic re-inflated Gutierrez’s lung allowing him to direct two more A-10 strafing runs.
The unit was able to hold off the insurgents for four hours until they could escape. JTACS go through incredible circumstances with their teams, much more than civilians realize.