Robert Gutierrez Jr., was born in Chula Vista, California, on 15 February 1980. He enlisted in the United States Air Force in July 2002. After completing Combat Control training in December 2004, he spent the next few years honing his skills, ultimately graduating from the Joint Terminal Attack Controller Qualification Course. He quickly earned his Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) rating which enabled him to direct close air support aircraft while embedded with Special Operations and Coalition Forces.
In 2007 and 2008, Technical Sergeant Gutierrez deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During this time he was awarded two Bronze Star Medals with Valor and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. He returned to combat in mid-2009, serving for 90 days in Western Afghanistan before he was wounded in a vicious battle with Taliban forces. On 5 October 2009, while assigned as a combat controller to an Army Special Forces Detachment, Sergeant Gutierrez and his team conducted a high-risk nighttime raid to capture the number two Taliban leader in the region. During the initial assault, the team was attacked with a barrage of rifle and heavy machine-gun fire from a numerically superior and determined enemy force. Sergeant Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route. In great pain and confronting the very real possibility that he would die, Sergeant Gutierrez seized the initiative and refused to relinquish his duties as joint terminal attack controller. Under intense fire, he engaged Taliban fighters with his M-4 rifle and brought air power to bear, controlling three “danger close” A-10 strafing runs with exceptional precision against enemy forces just 30 feet away. After the first A-10 attack, the team medic performed a needle decompression to re-inflate Sergeant Gutierrez’s collapsed lung, allowing him to direct the next two strafing runs, decimating the enemy force thereby allowing the team to escape the kill zone without additional casualties. Throughout the four-hour battle, Sergeant Gutierrez’s valorous actions, at great risk to his own life, helped save the lives of his teammates and dealt a crushing blow to the regional Taliban network. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Sergeant Gutierrez received the Air Force Cross, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Air Force. Now recovered from his wounds, he continues to make an ongoing difference in the war on terrorism as a Combat Control instructor at the Air Force Special Operations Training Center. He resides in Florida with his wife, Julie, and his children, Francesca and Robert III.