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'Portraits in Courage' Vol. VI: Core values, real time

Posted 9/20/2011   Updated 9/20/2011 Email story   Print story


by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Dean
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

9/20/2011 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Directing heat, jumping into raging waters, triaging under fire, powering relief efforts, or using a camera to alter outcomes; these are the actions taken by some of the 18 Airmen featured in the latest series of Portraits in Courage.

Volume VI tells the stories of heroes and game changers; the true-life accomplishments of those enriching the Air Force narrative.

"Whether risking life or limb to call in air strikes, deftly disarming improvised explosive devices, running through a gauntlet of enemy fire or tirelessly providing humanitarian support, the Airmen who are showcased here exemplify the warrior ethos," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy in the preface.

Schwartz announced Sept. 20 the release of the latest volume during an address at the Air Force Association's 2011 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition at National Harbor, Md.

"Although they represent only a small cross-section of our Air Force, these Airmen exemplify the character of our citizens who answer the call of duty by volunteering to serve our Nation in a time of conflict. Because valor has no expiration date and courage is timeless, it is our hope that these stories will inspire future generations of men and women to also undertake noble service to our country," said Schwartz and Roy.

The sixth volume recounts the bravery, courage and selfless commitment of:

Maj. Matthew Astroth, 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Fla. The AC-130U Gunship pilot commanded his crew throughout a volatile combat sortie lasting more than 10 hours. First assigned to support a special operations infiltration effort the mission morphed to survival, reconnaissance and extraction support. Low fuel, impending and dangerous daylight, and the seemingly endless onslaught of enemy fire threatened failure; however, Astroth and his crew prevailed, using unrelenting and spot-on airpower to help preserve 73 American lives.

Staff Sgt. Mark Badger 466th Air Expeditionary Squadron, Operating Location-Bravo, Afghanistan. Sergeant Badger eliminated more than 60 improvised explosive devices during a six-month deployment. While supporting an Army cavalry company Badger and his explosive ordnance disposal team were pinned down by an explosion. Although injured with shrapnel he assisted in the treatment and evacuation of others and made sure a return path was clear of additional improvised explosive devices before consenting to his own evacuation.

Staff Sgt. Aaron Carroll, 325th Fighter Wing, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. When a convoy supported by his EOD team hit an IED Carroll's poise and selflessness directly resulted in lives saved. While attending to a Marine injured in the attack a second IED detonated, knocking down the EOD team leader and throwing another Marine into the blast hole of the first IED. Carroll rendered first aid to both Marines, cleared a path to the road for extraction and helped carry both Marines more than 300 yards to safety.

Senior Airman Chanise Epps, 9th Intelligence Squadron, Beale AFB, Calif. When Epps' forward operating base came under small arms fire and mortar attack she used her camera to capture images of the battle lasting more than three hours. Positioning herself in an abandoned and dangerous fighting position for the best angle, Epps was able to capture images that gave FOB leaders near-real time battle damage assessment, the information required to adjust offensive and defensive measures, and evidence later used in the prosecution of captured insurgents.

Master Sgt. Kevin Fife, 440th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, Kabul, Afghanistan. Flood waters swept down the Kabul River in the Jalalabad Valley, Afghanistan, late July 2010. Fife, a helicopter crew chief deployed in the area assisted in efforts to rescue thousands of Afghan nationals stranded by the waters. He was a crewman aboard a helicopter that helped save 250 people the first day of the mission. Two children were swept away while being rescued on the second day. Fife jumped from his helicopter and went after them, returning both to safety.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Gonzalez, 18th Security Forces Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan. As part of a deployed security forces fly-away unit Gonzalez team was also first on scene at an area of Pakistan ravaged by flooding. Under Gonzalez' effective leadership the team provided critical humanitarian assistance to more than 200 evacuating Pakistanis, distributing food and medical supplies, locating shelters and facilitating the work of medical professionals.

Tech. Sgt. Dustin Goodwin, 48th Security Forces Squadron, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. Goodwin faced down two insurgents lobbing grenades over a wall of his forward operating base during their attack. Inside the FOB his team was under heavy fire, thrown against a wall by a hand grenade blast and already had two Airmen down. Goodwin, who already had one kill credit in the fight against the 20 attackers, leaned over the wall and eliminated the two enemy combatants.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Hill, 33rd Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan. As a flight engineer Hill's job was personnel recovery and casualty evacuation. Just days before Thanksgiving 2010 he launched on a mass casualty evacuation mission near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border: there were 11 wounded on the ground and fighting was intense. Four long hours later, through persistent enemy fire and logistical nightmares, Hill and his teammates returned four fallen warriors and seven [wounded] to safety.

Master Sgt. Benjamin Horton, 775th Civil Engineer Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah. Three Bronze Stars speak volumes about the mission focus and perseverance of Horton, who fought through shrapnel wounds and temporary blindness to direct rescue efforts for others around him. Horton cleared IEDs for rescue helicopters and risked his life to recover fallen warriors from IED blast zones.

Staff Sgt. Jordan Jakubowski, 17th Air Support Operations Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Jakubowski, a joint terminal attack controller, participated in more than 20 missions, 10 of them involving firefights lasting more than 24 hours each. In one battle, injured by a rocket-propelled grenade, Jakubowski continued to call in air strikes while simultaneously holding off the enemy using his assault rifle. Two weeks later he again displayed indelible courage under fire, calling in airstrikes that created evacuation opportunities for the friendly forces and elimination of 35 enemy combatants.

Staff Sgt. Kelsey Kent, 353rd Special Operations Group, Kadena Air Base, Japan. After the March 2011 natural disasters in Japan the Sendai Airport had no electrical power. Kent, a power production specialist, was on scene soon after the quake and tsunami, evaluating damage, assessing options and implementing fixes. He established power to critical facilities within 36 hours and his efforts also powered command centers coordinating relief.

Tech. Sgt. Daniel McKnight, 5th Civil Engineer Squadron, Minot Air Force Base, N.D. Leading an EOD team into a city controlled by enemy forces since 2007, McKnight and his team faced stiff opposition. Initially without the aid of robots the team both created space and cleared thousands of pounds of lethality. McKnight's pivotal contributions directly saved lives and helped wrestle control from the Taliban.

Staff Sgt. Yuri Miller, 22nd Special Tactics Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. While conducting a night reconnaissance mission Miller's patrol came under attack. As a JTAC he called in air support protecting his patrol. Then he and others engaged the insurgents. When one of his own was injured Miller revealed his position to the enemy then eliminated them with his grenade launcher, allowing extraction. Miller persisted without pause throughout a 10-hour firefight; battling up close and personal while directing airpower on target.

Tech. Sgt. Clifford Monroe, 319th Civil Engineer Squadron, Grand Forks AFB, N.D. As part of a provincial reconstruction team he came under attack no less than 35 times during a deployment. Monroe helped coordinate airpower counterstrikes and performed all of his combat duties while building positive relationships between the local government and citizens of a strongly contested, highly populated area.

Chaplain (Maj.) Randy Sellers, 71st Flying Training Wing, Vance Air Force Base, Okla. As a provider of pastoral care Sellers served as a guidepost and rock for both those leaving life and those left behind. He attended to arrangements, whether physiological, spiritual or emotional under the most difficult of circumstances.

Capt. Salvatore Sferrazza Jr., 38th Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. He saved 60 people and treating more than 450 others during a recent deployment Sferrazza performed an intricate, airborne blood transfusion saving the life of one patient. He also shielded a patient from enemy fire--on the way in and out of a hostile fire situation--while rescuing a fallen warrior.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Warren, 308th Rescue Squadron, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. Hundreds of people were trapped in vehicles strewn about by an avalanche. Warren, a pararescueman, hit the ground in the minus 20 with the threat of insurgent activity and secondary avalanches. More than 10,000 feet above sea level and fighting biting wind, Warren and his team saved 15, helped three times that and evacuated hundreds.

Staff Sgt. Jack Williams, 88th Inpatient Operations Squadron, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. As the lead medic for a provincial reconstruction team in a highly populated, hotly contested area Williams' medical skills were put to the test repeatedly. He saved numerous lives in one-on-one and mass casualty situations. His patients were coalition members, Afghan soldiers and local nationals.

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