John A. Chapman awarded the Air Force Cross
10 January 2003 at Pope AFB, NC
U.S. Navy Names Ship MV Tech. Sgt. John A.
|On 10 January 2003, the SECAF posthumously awarded the the Air Force
Cross to TSgt John A. Chapman. The ceremony was an extremely emotional event.
Attending the event were hundreds of his fellow Combat Controllers, all
proudly wearing their trademark berets. These CCT included
active duty, air national guard, reserve, and retirees. Also in attendance
were fellow warriors from Afghanistan that included U.S. Army, Air Force
Special Operations personnel, and many base personnel who wished to honor
this brave American. Many of these men
were hardened combat veterans but were either moved to tears or close to
it. John was a native of Windsor Locks, Connecticut. He graduated from
Windsor Locks High School in 1983 and his mother still resides in that
community. At the time of his death, his residence was in Fayetteville, NC.
He was buried in his wife's hometown of Windber, PA.
This web page provides details of the award ceremony and the events that led to the award.
Along with our brothers in Combat Control, the United States Pararescue forces, active duty, discharged, and retired were saddened at the news of the death of Combat Controller Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman. Sergeant Chapman was killed in action in the same battle in which Pararescueman Jason Cunningham was killed. Both of these brave men died defending the United States of America from the terrorists who declared war on America on 11 September 2001. Each of these warriors entered a battle in an attempt to rescue a fellow American. They did their best, they did not let down their teammates, and they died in the line of duty "So That Other's May Live." Our grief is only exceeded by our pride in these two American patriots and warriors.
For many years now, PJs and CCT have been assigned together in Special Tactics Teams (STS). In 1991, this webmaster, along with Combat Controller Mike Stienbeck proudly led the men of the Special Tactics team at Clark Air Base. The concept of uniting PJs and CCT in a single unit has proven itself time and again. We have trained together, raised hell together, fought together, and now unfortunately died together. Most things STS team members do are unusual and frequently extraordinary. The actions of Chapman and Cunningham during the "Battle of Robert's Ridge" was no exception. For the first time in the history of the United States Air Force two enlisted men were awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism in the same battle. I hope that it is the last time we have to make history at the expense of our most important resource; the lives of our men.
The Air Force Cross
Congress established the AFC in 1960. Since then only twenty-three enlisted men have been awarded this medal. Twenty of these medals were awarded during the Vietnam War. Since the Vietnam War only three of these medals have been awarded. Timothy Wilkinson receive one for heroism in Somalia and now Jason Cunningham and John Chapman have received theirs for heroism in Afghanistan.
Links to the Award Ceremony Program
January 10, 2003
Chapman awarded posthumous Air Force Cross
By Bruce Rolfsen Times staff writer
The Air Force posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman Friday during a ceremony at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.
Chapman, who was a member of the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope, died March 4 in Afghanistan when he and a joint special-operations team attempted a rescue of Navy SEAL Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, who had fallen out of a helicopter in a hostile area.
After a special operations helicopter inserted Chapman and the other team members into the area, Chapman called for possible close-air support from an AC-130 gunship and directed the gunship to begin a search for Roberts, who eventually died on the mountain that U.S. forces dubbed Roberts Ridge.
Chapman engaged two enemy positions during the rescue attempt and killed two enemy soldiers. During the exchange, Chapman was mortally wounded, but his actions allowed the rest of his team to seek cover.
For the complete story, see the Jan. 20 issue of Air Force Times, available on newsstands Monday, Jan. 13.
Here is the citation to accompany the award of the Air Force Cross (Posthumous) to John A. Chapman
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, U.S.C., awards the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States as a 24th Special Tactics Squadron combat controller in the vicinity of Gardez, in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan, on 4 March 2002.
On this date, during his helicopter insertion 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 sea-air-land team member to fall from the aircraft.
Though heavily damaged, the aircraft egressed the area and made an emergency landing seven kilometers away.
Once on the ground Sgt. Chapman established communication with an AC-130 gunship to insure the area was secure while providing close-air support coverage for the entire team.
He then directed the gunship to begin the search for the missing team member. He requested, coordinated and controlled the helicopter that extracted the stranded team and aircrew members.
These actions limited the exposure of the aircrew and team to hostile fire.
Without regard for his own life Sgt. Chapman volunteered to rescue his missing team member from an enemy stronghold.
Shortly after insertion, the team made contact with the enemy. Sgt. Chapman engaged and killed two enemy personnel.
He continued to advance, reaching the enemy position, then engaged a second enemy position, a dug-in machine gun nest. At this time the rescue team came under effective enemy fire from three directions.
From close range, Sgt. Chapman exchanged fire with the enemy from minimum personal cover until he succumbed to multiple wounds.
His engagement and destruction of the first enemy position and advancement on the second enemy position enabled his team to move to cover and break enemy contact.
In his own words, his Navy sea-air-land team leader credits Sgt. Chapman unequivocally with saving the lives of the entire rescue team.
Through his extraordinary
heroism, superb airmanship, aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and the
dedication to the service of his country, Sgt. Chapman reflects the highest
credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Synopsis - In press briefings, the Pentagon called it "Operation Anaconda." The press have also referred to it as the battle at Shah-i-Kot Mountain. But the men who fought there, call it the battle on Robert's Ridge.
Many of the details of this battle are still classified. We do know that Combat Controller John Chapman and Pararescueman Jason Cunningham were killed in action. The SAR objective was USN SEAL Neil Roberts, who was left on the ground on during a team insertion by a CH-46 on 4 March 2002.
Below is information obtained from multiple unclassified sources. Also on the ground during the battle was Combat Controller Gabe Brown and Pararescueman Kerry Miller. They also fought bravely and provided close air support and emergency medical care to many wounded until the casualties were medevaced out.
I suggest that you read the below articles in the order they are listed. Doing so may allow you to extrapolate what John and Jason were doing when they were killed. The PJs who have access to all the classified documents tell me that if anything, the unclassified information understates the heroism of John Chapman and Jason Cunningham. Both these men died "So That Others May Live."
John Chapman was awarded the Air Force Cross on 10 January 2003. This is the highest decoration for heroism that can be awarded by the USAF. No award will bring John back to us; but it does honor him for the ultimate sacrifice he made "So That Other's May Live." We are all more proud of John than words can say.
|AF Times Article - MS Word|
|AF Times Article - PDF|
|Los Angeles Times Article - MS Word|
|Los Angeles Times Article - PDF|
Show of Memorials and Operation Anaconda
TSgt Chapman and SRA Cunningham were both KIA in the same battle. They were attempting to rescue a Navy SEAL who was inadvertently inserted into a terrorist hornets nest.
TSgt John Chapman
Click thumbnails for full size photo
SRA Jason Cunnigham
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