MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Capt. Jonathan A. Gunther and his team provided more than 3,000 hours of scheduled aircraft coverage for ground troops, which ensured the safe recovery of more than 600 improvised explosive devices before they were used against ground troops.
Gunther wrote and published a seven-page intermediate airspace command and control standard- operating procedure from scratch, which outlined specific aircraft procedures and was later used as a benchmark publication for five brigade task forces to follow.
And after one of his airmen was killed by an improvised explosive device, and another wounded, he brought his team together and took care of his men while facilitating the honorable disposition of remains back to the family.
These are only a few of the many experiences Capt. Jonathan A. Gunther, a B-52H Stratofortress aircraft commander from the 23rd Bomb Squadron, had while deployed for a year in Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Gunther was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his meritorious service as an air liaison officer and the 807th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron Operating Location Bravo flight commander during Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Bronze Star Medal recognizes acts of heroism performed in ground combat if they are of lesser degree than that required for the Silver Star. It also recognizes single acts of merit and meritorious service if the achievement or service is of a lesser degree than that deemed worthy of the Legion of Merit, but such service must have been accomplished with distinction.
Col. Doug Cox, 5th Bomb Wing commander, awarded the medal to Gunther during the 5th Operations Group commander's call Feb. 25.
This was Gunther's first combat deployment and his first time in Afghanistan. He was charged with many responsibilities while in Kandahar, but his main mission was focused on protecting others so they could successfully complete their mission.
"The main focus was to provide close air support to the 4th Brigade Combat Team so they could partner with the Afghan National Security Forces in order to build their capacity and capability," he said. "My team accomplished this by providing combat aircraft overhead to protect paratroopers on the ground. We also provided the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers the ability to control the aircraft, getting bombs on target whenever needed."
Although Gunther achieved many things while deployed, there are two major accomplishments that stood out to him the most.
"One thing I felt particularly proud of was working on an airspace plan for the Kandahar city region," he said. "I partnered with other airspace managers to design and construct a plan managing up to 50 flights a day in the Kandahar airfield."
Aside from constructing an airspace plan, Gunther made sure to take time out to take care of his airmen.
"Another accomplishment I was proud of was getting one of my airmen promoted below the zone," he said. "My NCO (noncommissioned officer) in charge and I worked tirelessly at making sure all the airmen in my flight were recognized for the work they did. When I told him, he was so excited. I couldn't help but feel excited with him. It's those little things in a combat zone that can make all the difference."
Gunther's previous commander was not surprised to hear that he received this medal.
"While we were together, Captain Gunther displayed professionalism, excellence and a positive can-do attitude," said Lt. Col. Anthony Abernathy, 14th Air Support Operations Squadron commander. "He tackled the monumental task of preparing to deploy for 365 days like a veteran, and his success downrange is a testament to his exemplary leadership."
Gunther said he was proud to serve his country and to have had the deployment opportunity.
"We have a very important mission that has been given to us," said Gunther. "Airmen need to support that mission and do what they can to contribute to it. I feel proud to support the Air Force mission and would gladly go again."