Tag Archives: Operation Enduring Freedom

An Airman rises to honor a fallen Soldier

By Maj. Rosaire Bushey
AETC Public Affairs

Today I had the privilege to be a very small part of several hundred people who gathered to honor a fallen warrior. Army Sgt. Thomas Bohall returned to Texas today from Afghanistan and he was met by a line of respect that stretched for more than half a mile.

Fallen Soldier Words, however, are a poor substitute to the sights and more specifically to a single face in which a whole world of non-verbal emotion collided.

Lining the road there were uniforms, mostly ABUs, the odd BDU, flight suits, civilian slacks, skirts, suits. They were representative of the team that makes the military work. They were worn by every skin tone you could consider and they came equipped with boots, shoes, pumps, and heels; with berets, flight caps, garrison caps and even cowboy hats, and they stood under a double line of 50 state flags – everywhere you looked you could see all of America represented.
At the end of the line, through the base gates, two ladder trucks from local fire departments formed an arch across the road, with an American flag hanging. And as the procession approached, what little noise there was ceased. Cars stopped, contractors doing grounds maintenance stood at attention and doffed their hats, uniformed service members saluted.

As Sgt. Bohall passed I dipped my eyes and in a fraction of a second, locked eyes with a woman who I can only assume was a wife, girlfriend or sister. I’ll never know. She was no more than two feet away. She was sitting sideways in her car, facing directly into the row of us lining the road. Her face, wracked with grief and desperately straining to hold back tears that would end her connection with us, was a storm of emotion.

Salute a fallen SoldierBarely visible beneath the grief there was also a hint of a smile on her tear-stained lips. That near-smile and her wide eyes spoke clearly of pride – the pride she had for Sgt. Bohall – Thomas — regardless of the relationship they shared. Mostly, however, I saw in her face thankfulness. She was staring at people who had never met Thomas, never met her or her family, and yet here they were. On some level I think she probably understood at that moment that Thomas had always been around family, even when he was far from home.

In a second, she was gone, replaced by the low rumble of 74 motorcycles from the Patriot Guard, providing top cover for Sgt. Bohall and his family.

Salutes were lowered, cars moved, groundskeepers went back to work, but it was all quieter now. Did it matter that we were there; that we took an insignificant portion of our lives and saluted a fallen comrade?

Had you seen this woman’s face, her eyes, her gratitude, you wouldn’t even ask.

It made a difference. It mattered … a lot.

Photos: (Top) A U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of Army Sgt. Thomas A. Bohall, of Bel Aire, Kan., at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, June 7. Sergeant Bohall was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. (Bottom) A crowd gathers as a motorcade processional transporting the remains of Army Sgt. Thomas A. Bohall. Sergeant Bohall was one of six soldiers from Fort Campbell who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and killed by an improvised explosive device during an insurgent attack May 26, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photos by Don Lindsey)

 

Airmen are in the fight

“The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win…in air, space and cyberspace.”

The Air Force is definitely in the fight and living up to its above-mentioned mission statement. As an Airman, I’ve always known that. However, I noticed a couple of articles highlighting this fact today on the Air Force’s Web site.

One of the most heavily tasked career fields is explosive ordnance disposal. These Airmen provide an invaluable service to the joint and coalition teams supporting in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Dealing with the uncertainty of unexploded ordnance makes these Airmen heroes.

One such EOD hero is Tech. Sgt. Michael Williams, 437th Civil Engineer Squadron, Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. Charleston Airman honored for heroic actions is an awesome article about him receiving decorations for his actions in Afghanistan.

Sergeant Williams came upon an improvised explosive device Aug. 2. Trisha Gallaway’s story explains what happened:

With one step, his foot landed on a different land mine with an IED on it.

“(Following the detonation of the IED) the insurgents started firing on us at the location,” [Sergeant Williams] said. “My teammates did an outstanding job defending the area, taking care of me and getting out of there. I was very grateful.”

After losing the lower portion of his left leg from the explosion, (Sergeant Williams) courageously conducted post-blast crater analysis while engaged by insurgent small-arms fire. He passed vital details regarding the composition and size of the detonated IED to members of his patrol and assisted in his own medical treatment while awaiting evacuation.

During the evacuation, Sergeant Williams continued to pass information concerning the explosive device to his fellow team members while heroically manning his weapon in order to provide security as they moved to the helicopter landing zone.

“Everyone reacts differently to an injury,” Sergeant Williams said. “I just went back to the training I received and tried to do as best I could to make sure everyone got out of there. The job still has to get done. You can’t just stop, so I tried to do as much as I could and the best I could do it (given the situation).”

Another example of Airmen in the fight is Senior Airman Ashley Jackson. The deployed Eielson AFB, Alaska, Airman used her medic training to treat Soldiers she’s assigned with who were injured in an IED explosion to their mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle. (Airman renders combat first aid to Soldiers)

[Airman Jackson] checked the gunner’s airway, breathing and circulation; then she checked him for injuries. He didn’t need a tourniquet, but his leg had a femur fracture. To get him onto a backboard, Airman Jackson had to get him out of the turret.

“I gave him morphine to prepare him for the pain he was about to experience when we removed him from the turret,” Airman Jackson said. “I realigned his leg as best I could, trying not to cause any more damage.”

Capt. Darrick Lee wrote a fine end to the article:

It was not long, in fact only a few days, before Airman Jackson did just that, donning her body armor, grabbing her weapons and going on patrol outside the wire with the [Provincial Reconstruction Team] again. When asked how she felt about the remainder of her deployment in light of surviving an IED attack, she replied: “I need to take care of my brothers, and now I know I can do my job. The rest of this deployment is going to be OK.”

Some people associate aircraft – not ground-based Airmen – when thinking of the Air Force. They are also contributing to war effort with increased aerial mobility efforts (Mobility Airmen continue peak pace for Operation Enduring Freedom). Air Mobility Command aircraft carried more than 137,500 tons of cargo between April and September. In the same time period, tankers off-loaded 563 million pounds of fuel.

AMC set airdrop records throughout the summer: 3.2 million in June, 3.3 million in July, 3.8 million in August and 4.1 million in September. Air crews dropped an average of 1,065 cargo bundles a month for a projected total of 12,700 bundles for the year. In comparison, they dropped 5,675 bundles for all of 2007. They are also doing it with fewer sorties (a projected 435 for the year) compared to 538 in 2007.

Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol included a great quote that shows the appreciation for the Air Force from troops down range.

“The Air Force airdrops are providing needed support to Soldiers in the field; getting people and parts to our guys in the (forward operating bases) and in the mountains,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Wright, deployed to Afghanistan from the 101st Airborne from Fort Campbell, Ky. “The Air Force is doing a great job and it’s great to have them out here.”  

Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff works in the Pentagon with Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.

First-hand reflections from Afghanistan

Lt Col Atkins and Maj Brapeaux
Lt Col Atkins and Maj Brapeaux

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Atkins (photo at left) is currently assigned to Camp Eggers, Kabul, Afghanistan, as part of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A).  Below are some insights and reflections he shared based on this current deployment. About this assignment, Lt Col Atkins states, “I volunteered for my third and most challenging deployment. At this location, we have a direct and significant impact on training the Afghan National Police (ANP) to provide stable security for the people of Afghanistan.”

27 August 2009

Country Overview:  It has been interesting to witness the highest rates of significant events during the Operation Enduring Freedom campaign.  I’ve been outside the wire three times, and each time one can feel the extremely high tension cutting through the air. The tension is not between the Coalition and the Afghans; it’s between everyone and the bad guys.

Locals: I truly feel sorry for these poor people trying to make their lives better. They have “non-invited” insurgents spoiling progress. Often I talk to the locals and they truly appreciate the opportunities we have provided. We hire many local contractors and it’s making a significant difference in their personal lives, for their families, and their communities.

Security Progress: The Afghan Army and Police are making great strides in training, operations, and deterrence. There are many challenges across the board, but progress is being made.

15 August 09

Maj Lee, Lt Col Atkins, & Lt Col Remiggio, team members from CSTC-A
Maj Lee, Lt Col Atkins, & Lt Col Remiggio, team members from CSTC-A

A few weeks ago, I was in vibration range of the vehicle born improvised explosive device (VBIED) that killed 5 and injured 91.  The explosion was loud…louder than you could ever imagine. The good news is that our highly trained people did a phenomenal job of rescuing and recovering all of the WIAs (wounded in actions). I was utilized in the Joint Operations Center to accomplish accountability and plan the next phases.

Elections: Although the elections were not free from casualties, the Afghan Army and Police did an excellent job of protecting people of different tribes and clans. Thousands of Afghan men and women proudly risked their lives and limbs to vote. Many of them displayed their ink stained index finger for several days after the election. We all hope and pray that someday all Afghans will enjoy the freedom, safety, and security to vote like we do in America.

Pride & Courage: You would be proud to see our brave troops, State Department, and civilian contractors in action. Everyday we march past our Coalition flags at half-mast, and we fully comprehend the flags will remain at the position again tomorrow. Our goals, objectives, and end state are clear and we are willing to make great sacrifices to ensure they are all met.