Staff Sgt. Justin C. Navarette earned a Purple Heart for military service in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Justin C. Navarette, a contingency skills instructor with the 421st Combat Training Squadron, was presented the Purple Heart by Maj. Gen. John R. Gordy II, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander on Dec. 7, 2018 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
On May 5, 2013, Staff Sgt. Justin C. Navarrette, then Senior Airman Navarrette, was one of three U.S. Airmen aboard a Royal Air Force Chinook HC Mk.2 helicopter teamed with the British Army’s elite 1st Brigade Reconnaissance Force and the Afghan National Army in a planned raid on enemy forces in the vicinity of Yakhchal, Afghanistan. Unbeknownst to the assault force, the enemy hid near the planned landing zone. Upon landing and the initiation of the infiltration of friendly forces, enemy forces engaged the now stationary, vulnerable helicopter with rifle and machine gun fire. As bullets impacted the aircraft, fragments filled the air, striking Navarrette in the shoulder.
After noticing that Navarrette’s shoulder was bleeding, his teammates sheared his shirt open and applied direct pressure to his wound. During this time, the chinook circled the landing zone and layed down suppressive fire with the M134 Minigun. After the ambush was defeated and enemy fire suppressed, the aircraft again landed to retrieve the friendly forces still on the ground.
With the aircraft damaged and multiple wounded aboard, the mission was aborted in order to immediately return to Camp Bastion for medical care for the wounded team.
Based on these events, The President of the United States of America Donald Trump, authorized by order of General George Washington, Aug. 7, 1782, has awarded the Purple Heart to SrA Justin C. Navarrette for wounds received in action 5 May 2013.
The Purple Heart is the oldest military award still given to U.S. service members, and is awarded by the president to those wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action.
Navarrette was born in Pratt, Kansas on the June 25, 1989. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force February of 2008 and graduated from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technical School in December of 2008. He has deployed to Afghanistan twice and the United Arab Emirates once. Currently, he is a Contingency Skills Instructor with the 421st Combat Training Squadron, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Operations School at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ.