'Portraits in Courage' Vol. V highlights Air Force heroes

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The latest "Portraits in Courage" released Dec. 10 highlights 18 Airmen who demonstrated bravery and heroism in the crucible of war as they repelled air and ground enemy fire, led convoys through perilous terrain and assisted injured comrades.

The stories describe ordinary Americans who accomplished extraordinary deeds despite harrowing challenges.

Featured Airmen include a captain who charged his convoy vehicle toward enemy forces to stave off an ambush that killed a guard and wounded others, and a master sergeant, who despite his own injuries, established a casualty collection point to save coalition members' and Afghan soldiers' lives following an explosion.

In the preface, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy said the collection "serves as an unremitting tribute to the spirit and accomplishments of all Airmen, poignantly reminding us of the sacrifices that are required, by service members and their families, to secure the many blessings of liberty."

The fifth volume highlights the following Airmen:

Maj. Thomas Bozung, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.  The HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter pilot from the 55th Rescue Squadron maintained his hover and rotated the aircraft, enabling his aerial gunner and pararescuemen to engage insurgents while his flight engineer made a rescue attempt.

Staff Sgt. Deante Brooks, Tyndall AFB, Fla. When his wingman was injured by a grenade, the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron security forces specialist provided emergency medical care and transported him to the base hospital before re-engaging in the fight with a 50-caliber machine gun until helicopter help arrived.

Tech. Sgt. Anthony Campbell Jr., Scott AFB, Ill. His recovery and destruction of more than 280 pieces of ordnance and bulk explosives stymied enemy bomb makers with the disposal of more than 2,500 pounds of explosives used to make IEDs.  During a cordon and search mission in Afghanistan, the 932nd Civil Engineer Squadron member lost his life while attempting to steer his team clear of an improvised explosive device at an entry control point. 

Staff Sgt. Christopher Ferrell, previously at Charleston AFB, S.C., now at Eglin AFB, Fla. as part of the 366th Training Squadron, Detachment 3. Wearing only body armor and night goggles for protection, the 437th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team leader volunteered to clear a lodged IED, protecting coalition forces and Afghan civilians from bodily injury or death.

Staff Sgt. David Flowers, Barksdale AFB, La. During a sweep for unexploded ordnance, the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron EOD technician, despite sustaining severe injuries from a landmine, continued to perform his duties, even falling back into the blast hole to prevent further explosions.

Master Sgt. Kenneth Gestring, Keesler AFB, Miss. The 81st Surgical Operations Squadron anesthesia flight superintendent established a casualty collection point under fire without regard to his own safety and injuries he sustained from a blast following an insurgent forces sub-munitions attack.

Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez, previously stationed at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, now stationed at Pope AFB, N.C. The 352nd Operations Group special forces team member directly engaged insurgents with his M-4 Carbine and orchestrated eight strafing runs from A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft onto multiple targets threatening to overrun their location.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Harrell, previously stationed at Eglin AFB, Fla., now stationed at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. The 96th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD technician returned multiple times to an IED blast zone to clear the area of additional insurgent devices, recover the remains of the deceased, evacuate the wounded and conduct a post-blast analysis to determine the enemy's tactics.

First Lt. Joseph Helton Jr., MacDill AFB, Fla. During his extended deployment, the 6th Security Forces Squadron member volunteered to remain in Iraq as the Detachment 2 Police Transition Team flight commander. He died when an explosively formed penetrator struck his vehicle during a drawdown operation in Baghdad. During his deployment, Lieutenant Helton trained more than 3,380 Iraqi policemen.

Lt. Col. John Holm, Fairchild AFB, Wash. Having already led recovery operations for at least 20 survivors stranded in poorly ventilated mountain tunnels following a series of avalanches, the former 66th Training Squadron commander also landed his helicopter to assist IED attack survivors, saving three Soldiers' lives.

Airman 1st Class Benjamin Hutchins, Pope AFB, N.C. The tactical air control party member deployed in support of the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team and encountered enemy fire during an attempt to rescue two Soldiers who had fallen into a river while trying to retrieve cargo containers.

Master Sgt. Neil Jones, previously stationed at Incirlik AB, Turkey, now at Spangdahlem AB, Germany. Chief of the 39th EOD flight, Sergeant Jones provided battlefield aid, suppressed enemy fire and coordinated an alternative convoy extraction location when a coalition team member broke his ankle as the group tried to meet a ground convoy.

Senior Airman Jeffrey Leigh, Cannon AFB, N.M. Though he had been injured just moments earlier when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb, the vehicle operator tenaciously proceeded on a 500-meter assault to locate insurgents and secure a position for secondary friendly forces.

Master Sgt. Keith O'Grady, Hurlburt Field, Fla. The 23rd Special Tactics Squadron member spent a sleepless 36 hours working to extricate Haitian residents heavily entombed in crumbled concrete buildings following the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the nation's capital, Port-au-Prince.

Capt. Eric Quidley, Yokota AB, Japan. Deployed as the lead logistician for the 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps in Afghanistan, the captain, though outgunned and outmanned in an ambush, sped and maneuvered his lead convoy vehicle toward insurgents, forcing them to retreat and helping to keep the bullet-ridden trucks from sustaining further fire.

First Lt. Roslyn Schulte, Hickam AFB, Hawaii. Killed in action when an IED struck her vehicle, the 613th Air and Space Operations Center intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance officer posthumously received the National Intelligence Medal for Valor for her efforts to teach Afghan military officials how to gather and interpret information.

Senior Airman Bradley Smith, Fort Riley, Kan. After the blast from an IED killed two Soldiers and wounded one Airman, the 10th Air Support Operations Squadron member rushed waist-high into a creek to save his wingman and recover the remains of the fallen. When Airman Smith arrived at the casualty collection point, he and a platoon medic were instantly killed from the blast of a second IED.

Staff Sgt. Alexander Yessayan, Robins AFB, Ga. Deployed as part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team, the client systems administrator maintained his position as Taliban fighters engaged his convoy with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47s. Unfazed by a mortar's impact, Sergeant Yessayan quickly responded with suppression gunfire from his machine gun, causing the enemy forces to desist.

Click here to read the complete Portraits in Courage Vol. V