Four bronze busts in the likeness of Air Force Cross recipients were unveiled at a ceremony honoring the Airmen Dec. 6 at the Combat Control School at Pope Field. The busts honor Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, Senior Airman Zach Rhyner, Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez, and Capt. Barry Crawford.
Two of the four recipients, Crawford and Gutierrez, were in attendance as well as the widow and the mother of Chapman who was awarded the Air Force Cross posthumously.
Col. Robert Armfield, 24th Special Operations Wing commander was the guest speaker for the event. During the unveiling he stressed how proud he was to be a part of the event.
“Nowhere else in the Air Force will you find a memorial like this,” said Armfield.
The ceremony was as unique as the exhibit. When it was time to learn about the heroic actions that warranted the award of the Air Force Cross, guests were reminded of Airmen in combat as instructors appeared out of the shadows in full combat gear and recited from memory accounts of those fateful days.
“This display will serve as a permanent reminder to all the Airmen, Families and public who pass through these halls of the sacrifices and heroism of those who have come before them,” said Armfield.
The Air Force Cross was established by Congress in July 1960. It is the Air Force’s version of the Distinguished Service Cross and recognizes individuals for extraordinary heroism . The next highest medal is the Medal of Honor.
“This is a great day for the Air Force and the Airmen at Pope Field. It is important for people to remember that not only are there still Airmen at Fort Bragg, but that heroes are trained here and this school is something to be proud of,” said Brig. Gen. Norman Ham, 440th Airlift Wing commander.
The busts were donated by the Combat Control School Heritage Foundation and were funded by the Combat Control Association, private donors and the CCS Heritage Foundation.
The Air Force Cross display is now a part of the school’s museum that is maintained by the CCS Heritage Foundation and the Combat Control Association.
The museum is an extension of the Air Force museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and has local historian, Ron Brown, who volunteers as its curator.
More information about the Combat Control School Heritage Foundation can be found at www.ccshf.org