On Dec.10, 2013, Master Sgt. Ivan Ruiz, a pararescueman, was attached as the lone rescue specialist
to an Army Special Forces team assaulting a Taliban stronghold. The team inserted into the Mushan
village area in no-visibility conditions due to the CH-47 Chinooks creating a dust and sand cloud
at the insertion point. Despite this, Ruiz quickly gathered his element of Afghan commandos and
moved rapidly to the objective. While Ruiz and his element moved, an orbiting flight of AH-64 Apache
helicopters observed armed insurgents maneuvering into attack positions and began engaging with
30 millimeter cannon fire. With the element of surprise lost, Ruiz followed his Afghan clearing element
into the courtyard of a target compound and breached the main building. Four inhabitants emerged
appearing to surrender. Without warning, the surrendering insurgents drew weapons and began firing.
Four U.S. service members and 10 Afghan commandos engaged in a point-blank firefight which ended
with the elimination of all four insurgents.
Gathering in the courtyard, Ruiz and two U.S. team members faced two small mud huts. Ruiz focused
on one hut, while his teammates oriented on the other. Instantly, an armed insurgent filled the
doorway of one hut 20 meters away. Ruiz instinctively fired his rifle, neutralizing the enemy fighter.
Simultaneously, a barrage of machine gun fire erupted from the second hut, wounding the two team
members near Ruiz. Ruiz laid down cover fire in an attempt to move closer to his fallen comrades but
he was unable to advance against the high volume of enemy fire. He shouted for reinforcement but
the Afghan commandos were trapped behind cover. Disregarding his own safety, Ruiz crossed the
open courtyard toward his wounded team members.
Without assistance he engaged enemy forces as they blasted machine gun fire at him across the
compound. Ruiz continued to suppress the enemy fighters with his own fire until finally joined by a
U.S. team member. When his team member threw a grenade into the hut, he seized the advantage and
closed the distance to his wounded comrades. Seconds later insurgents in the hut responded with two
grenades of their own. Prone and unable to maneuver, Ruiz was saved by an unpulled pin as the first
grenade landed within feet of him while the other grenade detonated a few meters away.
Ruiz pressed through intense fire to reach the two wounded soldiers and dragged them to relative
safety. Ruiz then treated his wounded team members and packaged them for transport on an incoming
helicopter. Rejoining his assault team, Ruiz treated three commandos wounded by grenade shrapnel
and continued to clear enemy compounds until the operation ended.
Ruiz’s actions saved the lives of two U.S. team members and contributed to the death of 11 enemy
fighters. Ruiz received the Air Force Cross Medal for his heroic actions against an armed enemy.