Airman receives 2 Purple Hearts

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Susan Stout
  • 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A Luke AFB sergeant was awarded two Purple Hearts for two separate injuries she received in a span of three months in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Aime Gaona, a 56th Operations Support Squadron intelligence analyst, was serving an eight-month deployment as a weapons intelligence team member of the 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron at Balad Air Base, Iraq.

A Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president of the United States to military members who sustain injuries received in combat.

Sergeant Ganona was serving in Iraq after only being stationed at Luke AFB for three months since returning from a year-long tour in Korea. She bypassed the normal recuperation period and volunteered for the deployment to Iraq.

In October Sergeant Gaona's Weapons Intelligence Team participated in a nine-vehicle operation whose mission was to bring down an improvised explosive device manufacturer and placer. Sergeant Gaona's humvee triggered a pressure switch on an IED that exploded and destroyed the vehicle and injured all four passengers.

Although she sustained a concussion and was wounded by shrapnel from the IED, Sergeant Gaona immediately began processing the scene and took critical photographs that enabled Combined Explosive Exploitation Cell members to document and analyze the data to protect future convoys.

On Dec. 19, Sergeant Gaona was injured for a second time while responding to an IED sighting outside of Kirkuk.

After identifying unusual markings that included a pile of rocks on the side of the road and a cassette tape, Sergeant Gaona photographed all of the evidence and proceeded to photograph the area across a riverbed where the suspected IED "trigger man" would have been.

When Sergeant Gaona lifted her camera to take a photo, she heard a pop noise and fell to the ground. She was shot in the leg by an enemy sniper and sustained a fractured femur.

Sergeant Gaona was initially treated at Forward Operating Base Warrior and then transported to the Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad AB where Col. Larry Jackson, 732nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group commander, presented her a Purple Heart.

Sergeant Gaona was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where she underwent surgery. She was then transferred Dec. 22 to Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Andrews AFB, Md., and had to have another surgery.

"During her deployment, her professional and tireless efforts exploited evidence that directly impacted the success of joint military operations in Iraq," said Lt. Col. David Julazadeh, 56th Operations Support Squadron commander. "She helped diminish the effectiveness of enemy insurgents and assisted in bringing justice to those who financed and emplaced IEDs."

"Sergeant Gaona's relentless WIT support to 16,000 coalition Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and civilians throughout the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division's battle space will have a lasting positive effect on the protection of U.S. forces operating in the area, as well as Iraq's civilian population and infrastructure," Colonel Julazadeh said. "For her bravery, Sergeant Gaona was awarded two Purple Hearts."

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