2016 Superior Achievement Award

Presented to: Captain Christopher Wright

Citation: For superior navigation skills in the face of grave and persistent danger which led his aircraft and crew to execute critical strikes against ISIL.


Capt Christopher Wright was serving as navigator on an AC-130U Spooky II gunship tasked to support Iraqi counter-terrorism service troops as they advanced along the Euphrates River, laying siege to cities under the control of ISIL.  The aircraft and crew were targeted by enemy surface-to-air fire. This event took place in or around June, 2016. Capt Wright started the mission navigating the aircraft through an elaborate network of special use airspace, civilian airspace and weapons engagement zones. Once overhead the operation, Capt Wright identified safe offset holding points to keep the aircraft away from a major city, and behind friendly lines, minimizing the enemy threat to the aircraft. He also contacted the Joint Terminal Attack Controller to pass target information for strike authorization. Working in conjunction with ground coalition forces, Capt Wright and his crew were requested to engage multiple enemy defensive fighting positions, which required the aircraft to fly in close proximity to a major city, and place the aircraft within the engagement zone of known air defense artillery and heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) known to be in the enemy’s possession.

While overhead, Capt Wright and his crew were targeted and fired upon by two SAMs. Both missiles were launched  inside the AC-130U attack orbit and tracked the aircraft up to altitude before they were detected by visual scanners and defeated with countermeasures prior to impact. While the crew continued to engage the enemy positions on the ground, Capt Wright plotted the point of origin coordinates and passed the information to nearby other friendly forces over the radio. As a result, Capt Wright and his crew destroyed nine enemy fighting positions and enabled the coalition forces fighting to retake the enemy’s stronghold. Their actions saved the lives of many coalition forces.

Capt Wright commissioned into the Air Force after completing his degree from the University of North Dakota and earned his wings from Undergraduate Combat Systems Office Training (UCT), Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL.  He completed AC-130U Navigator training at Hurlburt Field, FL.