2012 Superior Achievement Award

Presented to: Captain Jonathan D. Hantsbarger

Citation: For exemplary navigation skills which led his aircraft and crew through hazardous terrain and weather to employ critical air support for friendly special operations forces.


During a routine mission, Capt Hantsbarger and his crew were called on to provide close air support (CAS) to a group of Special Operations Forces (SOF) who were under fire from the enemy. He expertly navigated the aircraft through heavy thunderstorms and mountainous terrain. Immediately after arriving, Capt Hantsbarger quickly made radio contact with the Joint Terminal Air Controller, determining both the location of friendly forces and other aircraft to ensure maximum situational awareness for the crew. After locating the friendly troop positions, he coordinated emergency CAS clearance and began delivering precision fire on the enemy, killing 15 enemy fighters. Continuing the engagement, Capt Hantsbarger coordinated a helicopter landing zone and guided the helicopters to the location. His decisive actions ensured that all friendly personnel survived and were able to return home.

Capt Hantsbarger was hand-picked to the 4th Special Operations Squadron liaison officer to the 3rd Ranger Battalion during the largest multilateral exercise conducted to date. He was responsible for ensuring that fire support coordination exercises and air field seizures were executed flawlessly by the four AC-130's that were tasked to support. He personally met with involved personnel to ensure the mission readiness of over 900 Army Rangers. The Battalion Commander called it "the best gunship support we could have asked for."

As an instructor navigator, Capt Hantsbarger is constantly training the next generation of Air Commandos. He is the lead navigator for developing unilateral training missions and the lead officer for developing inter-flight scenarios with other flying agencies. Capt Hantsbarger meets with new crewmembers to brief and familiarize them with current tactics and procedures in each theater of operations, ensuring that SOF navigators are ready to defend the United States "any time, any place."

Capt Hantsbarger is an AC-130U Evaluator Navigator and Weapons Officer, 4th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida where he is responsible for teaching new tactics, techniques and procedures, developing training scenarios, and ensuring the squadron is poised for deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as any other contingency operation.