Airmen disarm potential threat, earn medals for courage
By Airman 1st Class Robert L. McIlrath, 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 16, 2014
SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- For most Airmen, parties can be a time to unwind after a long week, but for two 82nd Security Forces Squadron entry controllers, unwinding had to be pushed aside when a highly intoxicated Airman brandished a loaded pistol in the dormitory, creating a dangerous environment.
"We were at the party just hanging out," Airman 1st Class Joe Serna said about the party on Sept. 13. "A good bit of people were there and I noticed he was pretty drunk at this point. I saw him go to his room and then come out with a pistol in his waistband."
After spotting the weapon and realizing the situation was starting to spiral out of control, Serna and Airman Pauanthony Stamps knew they needed to act fast. The individual, fueled by alcohol and confined to the small dorm room packed with people, quickly became enraged.
Both Airmen quietly started to discuss the situation away from the loud music and partygoers. They quickly assembled a plan to intervene and disarm the intoxicated Airman. Serna and Stamps relied on their training and knew isolating him was key.
"We got him to walk with us away from the party and then Stamps crept up behind him and grabbed his arms so he wouldn't be able to pull out the gun," Serna said. "I took the gun away and unloaded it."
Although the intoxicated Airman resisted and struggled to break free, Serna and Stamps were able to overpower and restrain him, and separate him from his firearm.
"We just wanted to get the gun to the armory and get that individual to the chaplain," Serna said.
The two Airmen then handcuffed the individual and attempted to calm him down after he started harming himself.
Immediately following the confrontation, they reported the incident, allowing the chain of command to initiate care for the individual.
For their acts of courage, Serna and Stamps were presented Air Force Commendation Medals on Nov. 20.
"Getting shot was in the back of my mind," Stamps said. "That wasn't the important thing. The important thing was the safety of all the other people at the party."
Tech. Sgt. Rashon Taggart, Serna and Stamp's flight sergeant, is proud of the selfless actions his Airmen took to prevent others from potentially being harmed.
"It's really hard to get them to understand how big of a deal it is," Taggart said. "There was a lot of potential for a lot of harm to happen to a lot of different people."
According to the medal citation, Serna and Stamps were upholding the highest core values of the Air Force and showed care and compassion for their fellow wingmen.
"I just did what I figured anyone would do in a situation like that, what I hope anyone would do under those circumstances," Serna said.