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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Air Force Capt. Jerry Ruiz saw an Iraqi man acting erratically and trying to kick and punch people.

He asked an airman who was trying to calm the man what was going on.

“He’s trying to kill the general,” the airman told him.

Ruiz, the forward operations officer at New Al Muthana Air Base in Iraq, didn’t waste any time. He quickly locked and loaded his gun, shoved the Iraqi man into a corner and held him there until security forces arrived.

The Iraqi didn’t have a weapon, but Ruiz said the guy might have reached the Iraqi base commander or a member of his staff and probably would have been killed by the senior officer’s security detail.

“The general, he was safeguarded,” Ruiz said. “But I think that guy; he’s alive because I stopped him from doing anything.”

The Air Force awarded Ruiz the Bronze Star on Thursday for single-handedly halting the attack and for playing a key role in the creation of a new Iraqi air force from November 10, 2005, to March 10, 2006.

Gen. Tom Hobbins, the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, pinned the award on Ruiz during a brief ceremony at Ramstein Air Base’s Officers’ Club. Ruiz, 41, a New Mexico native, accepted the award with his wife and two sons, ages 10 and 8, in the audience.

“You can be very, very proud of all the things he’s accomplished,” Hobbins told Ruiz’s wife and sons.

While in Iraq, Ruiz led an advisory support team that helped rebuild Iraq’s decimated air force.

He said the Iraqi man he cornered until security forces came had falsified his records to get into the Iraqi air force. After two days of interrogations at the base, he was transported to Abu Ghraib prison.

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