The motto of Air Force pararescue is “these things we do, so that others may live,” and few people embody those words more than Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki.

The two members of the 48th Rescue Squadron were awarded Bronze Stars at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona earlier this month for saving the lives of their fellow warriors during special operations raids in Afghanistan in 2019.

Fagan was assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar Air Field during his fateful mission, Air Force Magazine reported. 

On March 24, 2019, he and a team of U.S. and Afghan Special Forces troops were raiding a compound in Helmand Province when they were attacked by an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire from a fortified position.

Some of that gunfire wounded an Afghan commando, and Fagan leaped into action, laying down fire so that the rest of his team could rejoin them.

“The heavy small-arms fire, coupled with rocket-propelled grenade blasts and multiple [IED] detonations pinned down the Afghan Special Forces team and hindered access to the critically wounded casualty,” the airman’s award citation stated, according to Air Force Magazine.

“Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Sgt. Fagan took immediate control of the dire situation and engaged the fortified enemy position, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy fire.”

Afghanistan War photo

Once the team caught up, Fagan treated his patient, called for medical evacuation, moved the commando to the helicopter landing zone amidst a swirl of gunfire, then provided cover for the helicopters to land, Air Force Magazine reported. The airman trusted his training would see him through the chaos.

“I knew what I was capable of. I knew what I was physically able to do,” the pararescueman said in a press release. “I knew I could treat that guy under fire in the dark and training with other rotary-wing platforms gave me the confidence to call in a clear nine-line quickly.”

A ‘nine-line’ is a standard code used to call in an immediate medical evacuation. Besides saving his patient, Fagan also helped destroy a weapons cache and kill five insurgents, the citation said, according to Air Force Magazine.

Brudnicki found himself in similar circumstances on a separate mission in Helmand Province. On May 3, 2019, the airman and a team of American and Afghan Special Forces were clearing a compound when they encountered heavy resistance up-close.

“[Brudnicki] and his team utilized the Taliban’s own kill holes against them with decisive small-arms fire,” the citation stated, according to Air Force Magazine. “At distances of less than 5 feet, he engaged relentlessly with personal weapons and hand grenades, despite their cover being damaged with a rocket that failed to detonate.”

Afghanistan War photo

When a civilian was injured in the fighting, Brudnicki ran through an open courtyard filled with enemy fire to reach the person, Air Force Magazine reported. He stabilized the civilian, only to have to rush back across the courtyard to reach a wounded Afghan commando, “exposing himself to grave danger,” the citation read.

The airman then set up a gathering point for the wounded and devised a plan for transporting blood and evacuating the scene. All told, his actions saved the lives of two people and helped kill seven enemy fighters, including a Taliban commander, Air Force Magazine reported.

“It is an honor to be recognized, however, the experience and brotherhood created with my team overseas is the most valuable piece for me,” Brucnicki said in the press release. “The Air Force best utilizes its special warfare assets when putting them to work in the joint environment and I am proud to be a part of that.”