Portrait in Courage: Air Force Staff Sgt. Travis Sanford
Staff Sergeant Travis Sanford, a special operations weatherman, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as a member of a Marine special operations team. Shortly after midnight on March 8, Sergeant Sanford and his teammates left their forward operating base in a convoy to conduct a routine reconnaissance patrol to disrupt enemy movement. Two hours into the mission, Sergeant Sanford and part of the team moved to a compound south of an Afghan village. Seeing movement and hearing voices, the team established security from positions that overlooked the village. With the aid of night vision equipment, the team was able to quickly quell a firefight just prior to sunrise. However, once the sun came up, more than two dozen insurgents emerged from fortified positions and attacked with continuous machine gun fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms fire.
Manning a M-249 light machine gun, Sergeant Sanford immediately engaged the enemy with suppressive fire. After several minutes of sustained combat as enemy rounds struck their position and whipped over their heads, the team took their first casualty. A Marine near Sergeant Sanford was struck in the head by an enemy round. Without hesitation and despite being exposed to enemy fire, Sergeant Sanford began performing life-saving procedures on the Marine. Sergeant Sanford and another teammate pulled the wounded Marine to cover where Sergeant Sanford and the team’s medic continued to administer critical care.
Once the wounded Marine was on a stretcher, Sergeant Sanford carried him 50 yards across an open field so that he could be evacuated. Sergeant Sanford continued to attend to the patient while simultaneously passing weather information to the inbound medical evacuation helicopter. After the patient was transferred to the helicopter, Sergeant Sanford ran back across the field to his team to reengage in the firefight. After nearly four hours of sustained engagement, the team was able to break contact and return to base. Intelligence personnel later reported that multiple combatants were either killed or wounded and several enemy fighting positions and weapons had been destroyed.
For his heroic actions during combat, Sergeant Sanford was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor.