Barry F. Crawford was an Air Force Special Tactics Officer and is a recipient of the Air Force Cross; a medal that has only been awarded to seven Airmen since 1975. Crawford is a native of Philadelphia, PA and graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 2003. As a Special Tactics Officer, he was the Weapons and Tactics Flight Commander and later the Assistant Director of Operations for the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Army Airfield as well as the Combat Control Flight Commander of the 321st Special Tactics Squadron at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England.
In 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan as part of the 23d Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, and on May 4th, 2010, then-Captain Crawford was the Air Combat Controller for an assault force of over 100 Afghan Commandos and US Army Rangers with the mission of clearing insurgents from the village of Hendor in the Laghman Province. As the assault force initiated clearance operations, they received a high volume of accurate machine gun and sniper fire from an estimated 150 fighters. During the attack, Crawford took decisive action to save the lives of three wounded Afghan soldiers and evacuate two other Afghan soldiers killed in action. Recognizing the wounded Afghan soldiers would die without medical evacuation, he ran out into the open and guided the helicopter to a landing zone. Once the pilot had eyes on his position, Crawford remained exposed despite having one of his radio antennas shot off mere inches from his face while he vectored aircraft. Without hesitation, he then crossed open terrain, engaged enemy positions with his assault rifle, and called in AH-64 strafe attacks to defeat the ambush, allowing teams to move. While the downed Afghan soldiers were moved onto the helicopter, one of the teams was pinned down by enemy fire from two enemy trucks that had moved into the area and threatened the evacuation. The evacuation helicopter also took direct fire and was forced to depart with only four of the five soldiers.
Crawford then developed and executed a plan to suppress the enemy, enabling retrieval of the last casualty. While leaving the village, the force moved two kilometers over steep terrain with little to no cover. Crawford again engaged the enemy while integrating AH-64s and F-15Es in a coordinated air-to-ground attack that included strafing runs along with 500 and 2,000-pound bombs and Hellfire missile strikes. Throughout the ten-hour firefight, he braved enemy fire and consciously placed himself at grave risk while controlling thirty-three aircraft and more than forty airstrikes against a well-trained enemy. Crawford’s selfless actions and airpower employment enabled friendly elements to exfiltrate with minimal casualties. His decorations include the Air Force Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation Medal with Valor and two devices, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. Major Crawford, now an F-16 Pilot in the Air National Guard, currently lives with his wife and two sons in Vermont.