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Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James pins the Air Force Cross to the uniform of MSgt. Ivan Ruiz, a pararescueman from the 56th Rescue Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, England, during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Dec. 17, 2014. Air Force photo by SrA. Christopher Callaway.

MSgt. Ivan Ruiz, a pararescueman from the 56th Rescue Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, England, was awarded the Air Force Cross—the military’s second highest decoration, second only to the Medal of Honor—on Wednesday for his actions in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, last year. On Dec. 10, 2013, Ruiz, who was assigned to the 22nd Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron at the time, conducted a raid in denied terrain along with a team of US Army Special Forces and Afghan commandos, according to his Air Force Cross citation. Ruiz and two of his US Army Special Forces teammates were confronted by four insurgents at point-blank range after being separated from the rest of their team. Although they quickly eliminated the threat, they became trapped in a courtyard by intense insurgent crossfire. His two comrades were wounded, “rendering them immobile and exposed to enemy fire,” states the citation. Ruiz “completely disregarded his personal safety and refused to withdraw to cover. Single-handedly suppressing enemy fire until reinforcements arrived,” Ruiz pushed through the crossfire to his wounded comrades, states the citation. The sheer volume of fire forced him to the prone position, but Ruiz refused to leave, “preventing enemy fighters from engaging his wounded teammates with direct fire weapons,” according to the citation. He is credited with saving the lives of his two teammates and killing 11 insurgents. (AFSOC release)