3 Altus Airmen receive Air Force Combat Action Medal

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kenneth W. Norman
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
"It was just a bad day," Sergeant Nolan said, as he recollected the events of the day his convoy fell under attack. "It was a long day. I wanted to go home and then "boom" there was a flash of light and debris covered the truck."

Tech. Sgt. Travis L. Nolan, Senior Airman Jennifer L. Kearns and Airman 1st Class Brandon J. Brown of the 97th Security Forces Squadron here all received the Air Force Combat Action Medal Nov. 10 for the bravery they showed when their vehicle came under attack during their deployment to Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

"I think it is an honor and a privilege to receive this medal," Airman Brown said. "I guess you just have to be in the right place at the right time to get the chance to earn it."

To be eligible to receive the AFCAM, an Airman must have been under direct and hostile fire while operating in unsecure space, or physically engaging hostile forces with direct and lethal fire.

The three Airmen were on a mission providing security for Air Force Office of Special Investigation officers and civilian interpreters who were meeting with sources in a village outside the base.

The Airmen were in the last truck of a four-truck convoy. Sergeant Nolan was driving, Airman Brown was riding in the passenger seat, and Airman Kearns was on top of the vehicle as the gunner.

They were traveling north on an alternate supply route, 3.5 kilometers south of JBB, when their truck was directly targeted by enemy insurgents, who executed a far-side ambush. The attack was initiated by the detonation of two improvised explosive devices beneath the rear and to the right side of the truck. The force of the blasts created an approximate 12-foot wide by 5-foot deep crater in the roadway.

The vehicle fell into the crater created by the blast, Sergeant Nolan said. He had to wait for the dust and debris to clear before he could push forward to catch up with the rest of the convoy.

"It was like you could see all the debris before the actual bang," Airman Brown recalled.

Once the debris cleared, they began to move forward when their vehicle started receiving small arms fire from approximately 150 yards to their left, Sergeant Nolan said. They pushed through the small arms fire and went through a city checkpoint into a clear zone.

"We stopped in the clear zone because our gunner said there was something on top of the truck," Sergeant Nolan said.

That's when they found an unexploded 122 mm explosive round on top of the truck.

"We evacuated the truck and moved out of the kill zone," Sergeant Nolan said. "Once we were out of the kill zone we established a cordon around the explosive round until explosive ordinance disposal personnel arrived."

No one was killed or seriously injured by the blast or small arms fire.

"Make sure you take your training seriously," Sergeant Nolan advises his fellow Airmen. "If it wasn't for training, things would not have gone as smoothly as they did."

When they returned to JBB, they were taken to JBB Air Force Theater Hospital for post blast injuries including headaches and ringing ears. Airman Kearns was also treated for a minor concussion.

"I think we got really lucky ... maybe someone was watching over us," Sergeant Nolan said.