Saturday, September 3, 2016
An airman is being considered for the Medal of Honor
By Jim Emerson, staff writer
The Air Force is considering upgrading the valor award won by TSgt. John Chapman from an Air Force Cross to a Medal of Honor. A recent review of a drone surveillance video of a 2002 firefight between a US special ops team and Al Qaeda fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan that killed seven Americans is now a focus of controversy. The newly discovered video shows that a Navy SEAL team left the area because its members believed Chapman to have been killed. The video, however, suggests that Chapman was still alive, that he killed two more insurgents and provided cover fire for an Army rescue helicopter before he was killed.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James is reportedly pressing for the Air Force Cross to be upgraded to a Medal of Honor. It would be the Air Force's first Medal of Honor awarded in the Global War on Terrorism. Such an upgrade is not new as the Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to A1C William Pitsenbarger for his action in Vietnam.
TSgt. Chapman, 36, of Windsor Locks, Connecticut was inserted by helicopter into the vicinity of Gardez in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan for a reconnaissance and time-sensitive targeting close-air support mission. Sgt. Chapman’s aircraft came under heavy machine gun fire and received a direct hit from a rocket-propelled grenade which caused a United States Navy SEAL team member to fall from the aircraft. The heavily damaged aircraft made an emergency landing in the vicinity. Once away from the helicopter Sgt. Chapman established communication with an AC-130 gunship for close air support while the team was searching for missing team member.
The combat controller coordinated additional helicopters to remove stranded team and aircrew members from the downed helicopter. TSgt Chapman stayed behind to rescue the missing team member from an enemy stronghold. Sgt. Chapman engaged the terrorists, killing two of them. During the battle he engaged a second enemy position, a dug-in machine gun nest. He continued to fire on the position until he was wounded. Left for dead, TSgt Chapman continued to fight the enemy till he succumbed to multiple wounds.
His actions provided time for the evacuation and saved the lives of the entire rescue team. With the recent release of the Predator video more than 14 years after that brutal fight, Air Force leadership revealed that Sergeant Chapman was not only alive, but that he fought on alone for more than an hour after the SEALs had retreated. For his heroism he deserves the Nation’s highest award.
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