Whether computer-based or hands-on, military members are in a constant state of training. Some training, such as the Career Development Course new Airmen must complete, is learned and immediately applied to day-to-day operations. Others, like Self-Aid and Buddy Care, only apply to specific situations. Most Airmen have been fortunate enough to never need their SABC training, but in a foreign country more than 7,000 miles away one Airman had his skills put to the test.
Special Agent Nicolo Solarino, Air Force Office of Special Investigations Det. 217, received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, at a ceremony held at the Mirage Club Nov. 26, for heroic actions taken while under enemy attack during a deployment in 2004.
At the time, Solarino was a senior airman assigned to the 887th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron in Southwest Asia.
“When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to do one of two things: join the military or become a cop,” Solarino said. “Security Forces afforded me the opportunity to have both sides of the coin.”
On Sept. 11, 2004, he was performing customs inspections on personnel and equipment when his post came under attack.
A 107 millimeter rocket detonated nearby and he was thrown approximately 10 feet. Once he recovered, he assessed his surroundings and noticed a fellow Airman down and suffering from life-threatening injuries.
“I could see the fear in Nic [Solarino’s] eyes and I know he could see it in mine,” said Senior Airman Brian Koflage (Ret.), wounded warrior. “I was laying there, legs and hand gone, but I was still conscious. I just remember Nic [Solarino] telling me that everything was going to be okay while he worked to save my life.”
While still under enemy fire, Solarino made his way back to his tent and retrieved SABC supplies, personal protective equipment and Koflage’s identification. Once Solarino returned, he and another Airman continued to perform emergency medical care on Koflage, all while using their bodies to shield him from subsequent rocket attacks.
“One of the things I’ve noticed about Solarino is his ability to think 10 steps ahead while staying in the present,” said SA Emily Gebo, AFOSI Det. 217 commander and the ceremony’s presiding official. “That skill is what helped him save a fellow Airman’s life that day.”
Solarino stayed with Koflage until emergency medical personnel arrived and transported him to a field hospital.
“After what we went through together that day, our paths are forever intertwined,” Solarino said.
As a boy, Solarino collected Gulf War and Desert Storm trading cards. To commemorate his heroics, Koflage went to a card company and had a trading card made in Solarino’s honor.
“My actions that day are forever memorialized on this card,” Solarino said. “As someone who collected these types of cards, this is a huge honor.”
The ceremony was attended by family members, base leadership and Congressman Ron Barber, second district of Arizona representative.
“Solarino is a quiet and humble professional,” Gebo said. “If it wasn’t for the efforts of Senior Airman Koflage to get him recognized, we may never have even known about his actions.”
The Bronze Star is awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement of service and is the eighth highest award that can be received. It is one of only four medals presented for heroism.
“A lot of credit goes to the doctors who worked on me after the attack and, yes, ultimately they saved my life,” said Koflage. “But I think about it like this: if not for Nic [Solarino] and what he did, they wouldn’t have even had the chance.”