Air Force Pararescueman Receives Silver Star for Saving Lives of Teammates in Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Brunetto receives the Silver Star
Maj. Gen. Chad P. Franks, left, 15th Air Force commander, pins a Silver Star medal on Staff Sgt. Nicholas Brunetto, 38th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, during a ceremony at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, on Oct. 29, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taryn Butler)

A pararescueman has been awarded the Silver Star for running through gunfire to retrieve crucial medical equipment to save the lives of wounded teammates.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Brunetto, of the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, was awarded the the third-highest military combat decoration last week for his actions in Afghanistan in February, according to a service release.

Brunetto was attached to an Army Special Forces team during a mission in which the team was ambushed; eight U.S. and three partner force service members were critically wounded, the release states.

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"The Silver Star is representative of an airman's willingness to place their life in danger against the enemies of America for their comrades," Maj. Gen. Chad P. Franks, 15th Air Force commander, said during the Oct. 29 ceremony. "It reflects the American military fighting spirit and selfless service to our nation. Nobody would deny Nick's selfless service to America and his team that day."

While assessing his wounded teammates, Brunetto realized that blood transfusions were the only way to give them a fighting chance.

"[Without] regard for his own personal safety, [Brunetto] maneuvered back through incoming fire to retrieve vital medical equipment" needed for the transfusions, the release states.

Then, Brunetto again exposed himself to a barrage of enemy gunfire in order to move the injured to a suitable extraction point for helicopter evacuation.

"The [people] there, myself and other guys who were able to do treatment did an amazing job and were able to keep everyone [who] was injured alive," Brunetto said in the release. "The team as a whole reacted really well to what the situation was and were able to get all the guys out of there fairly quickly."

Brunetto also credited advancements in battlefield medicine that aided in expediting critical care to his fellow troops.

"It's vital," he said. "Every year, there's been a huge amount of progression, just with capabilities we have on the battlefield."

Earlier this year, the Air Force tested whether fresh blood can survive being airdropped out of an aircraft in an effort to get more of it to combat medics in remote environments. The current go-to method for delivering supplies to austere environments is frozen blood -- packed in glass tubes, which can break easily when dropped out of a plane. Medics have advocated for more stable solutions, such as whole blood or freeze-dried plasma in non-breakable packs for their makeshift trauma rooms.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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