Salutes & Awards

April 10, 2014

Heroes of Davis-Monthan AFB

Tech. Sgt David Beasley

Tech. Sgt David Beasley, 355th Security Forces Squadron Security Forces trainer, has been on three contingency deployments to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. During his deployments, he has been continuously challenged in support of combat operations. His roles have ranged from airfield and inflight security between Kuwait and Iraq, a Close Precision Engagement Sharpshooter for convoy route security in Iraq and Quick Response Team Squad Leader for outside the wire counter Improvised Explosive Device, counter surface to air fire, counter indirect fire and counter insurgency operations in Afghanistan.

Beasley’s past deployment training and experience proved instrumental on his last deployment to Afghanistan from June 2012 to January 2013. As QRT Squad Leader under constant threat of attack, his team patrolled a 240-square mile area outside Bagram Air Base, conducted hundreds of miles of on foot and vehicle security patrols, responded to multiple rocket attacks on Bagram Airfield and multiple IED attacks on other QRT’s and coalition forces. His team was responsible for the capture of Taliban insurgent bomb makers following attacks on coalition personnel, discovering IED’s on main supply routes and coordinating removal and destruction of IED’s. During this deployment, Beasley’s team was struck by IED’s on two separate occasions. During both IED attacks on his team, Beasley skillfully directed his team out of the kill zone and established security, coordinated air support for his team, removed injured personnel from disabled vehicles and insured medical treatment and transportation of wounded personnel out of the area.

Beasley’s final encounter with hostile forces occurred during a dismounted patrol on foot while inside a known insurgent operating area. In the dark early morning hours, his team was conducting a presence patrol to disrupt insurgent operations in the area when his 10-person squad was ambushed and came under direct enemy fire from four insurgents. Beasley immediately positioned his squad to fight and commanded the order to fire on the enemy. During the fire fight, he directed a member of the squad to call for air support. Beasley and his team’s immediate and unhesitating aggressive response forced the insurgents to retreat. After the enemy withdrew, Beasley insured accountability and condition of his team. Once he was certain no one was injured or missing, Beasley coordinated with a helicopter that had arrived to provide aerial cover for his team while he led them out of the affected area. No one on his team was wounded in the fire fight.

 

Master Sgt. Charles Cahoon

In 2010, Master Sgt. Charles Cahoon, Plans and Integration superintendent, spent six months in Iraq where he engaged in direct fire with enemy forces and received indirect fire.

Shortly after Christmas 2011, Cahoon deployed to Afghanistan and served as a logistics planner. He was assigned to his compound’s Force Protection Bravo team and to a drive team for U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

As a drive team member, he conducted convoy operations 3-4 days a week, maintaining vigilance while providing secure transportation for senior officers traveling to the U.S. Embassy or other forward operating bases in and around his compound.

His drive team also provided transportation and security for volunteers who were bringing supplies to local orphanages. The team secured a half mile radius around the orphanages ensuring the safety of fellow military members who were working with children.

Another responsibility of his drive team involved securing landing zones during Taliban engagement where wounded Afghan soldiers were off-loaded on their way to receive medical treatment.

Furthermore, the team provided security for distinguished visitors and special events within their compound and worked to prevent insider threats.

Throughout the course of these duties, Cahoon and his team responded to multiple incidents where shots were fired outside of their compound, although no direct fire engagement was required.

When he wasn’t running convoy operations, Cahoon’s normal duties included two major projects: executing the campaign support plan and working redeployment and retrograde of equipment and cargo throughout southwest Asia. Diligently working long hours with agencies back in the U.S., he coordinated the purchase and logistics of 50 portable retrograde wash racks to assist in meeting the draw down timeline set by the President.

 

Lt. Col. Michael Curley

Lt. Col. Michael Curley, 357th Fighter Squadron commander, recently deployed to Afghanistan for six months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

During this deployment, he served as the Director of Operations for the 74th Fighter Squadron of Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and it was his job to ensure the flying skills of 40 pilots were honed to provide close air support to ground troops. This group of pilots was also the first to deploy the A-10 Warthog with a new Helmet Mounted Cuing System, which would enable more efficient close air support.

On his third sortie, they were tasked to conduct an airstrike on three Taliban members who were shooting a recoilless rifle at coalition forces travelling around Afghan towns providing security to the local populace. This weapon can be devastating to American and Coalition troops, as it can penetrate armored vehicles.

Curley and his wingman arrived in their A-10s overhead Taliban forces that were hiding the weapon from security forces and preparing to attack. After tracking the Taliban members down, they were given approval to strike the enemy forces in order to remove the threat of such a dangerous weapon in the hands of the enemy.

Curley had spent the previous year training himself and his squadron to conduct strikes, such as this, where all the fog and friction of war occurred during a single situation.

Weather was moving in from Pakistan and they only had a limited opportunity to strike.

The enemy knew they were there and they were doing everything they could to prevent a strike; frequently moving, missing in with families and children, concealing the weapon and splitting into multiple groups.

Finally, they were given the approval to strike where collateral damage was of no concern.

He called upon his recent training, to include the HMCS, to aid in the attack and strafed the enemy Taliban and the recoilless rifle.

Friendly forces confirmed a successful strike, with three Taliban members eliminated and a heavy enemy weapon destroyed.

 

Tech. Sgt. Thomas Lauwers

On May 26, 2011, Tech. Sgt. Thomas Lauwers was on alert at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, performing personnel recovery. The lead aircraft was Pedro 55, an HH-60G Pave Hawk and with Lauwers team as their wingman on Pedro 56. The teams were scrambled to the Shorbak District in the mountains bordering Pakistan due to an Army Pathfinder unit being ambushed. Due to the extreme altitude and weather, the mission was determined to be high risk.

Lauwers completed aircraft performance calculations and found they would need to burn fuel for 15 minutes on-scene to have the minimum fuel required to hover at such high altitude. Ten minutes out, his flight lead established communication with the on-scene commander. He relayed that there were multiple dead and wounded due to an initial improved explosive devise blast followed by a second IED blast when the surviving team moved to cover. The ground force commander called a no movement order at this point due to eyes on several more IED’s in the immediate recovery area.

At this point, Pedro 55, with more power available, went in for a 45-foot hover, hoisting two pararescuemen on the ground with the survivors. Lauwers aircraft was providing armed over watch looking for an IED trigger man, because the ground force commander suspected the IED’s were remote detonated. Pedro 55 recovered one PJ and one survivor with no incident. About half way through hoisting the second PJ and survivor up, the wind shifted causing Pedro 55 to lose lift and nearly impact the ground. Pedro 55’s flight engineer kept hoisting while the aircraft was losing altitude and was able to move them into the aircraft. At this point, Pedro 56 had reached minimum fuel required to safely get back to base. Pedro 55 came up to do over watch while Lauwers aircraft decided to try and rescue the last remaining survivor. Due to the aircrafts power limitations, they decided they needed to hover lower than Pedro 55. Lauwers called an approach to a 25 foot hover over the survivor. Lauwers performed a high angle hoist, lowering one of the PJs to the survivor who was surrounded by five large IED’s. The PJ attached a rescue strap to the survivor, quickly enabling Lauwers to hoist them up with minimal exposure to the IED’s.

With that done Lauwers started a plan to divert to a small forward operating base for fuel, but the PJ team lead on Pedro 55 said one of their survivors was in critical condition and wouldn’t survive if they diverted. The team attempted to refuel in-air, but none was available, so Lauwers calculated max range power to try and mitigate the low fuel. The pilots used the power recommendations he provided and the team made it back to Kandahar’s trauma center with just enough fuel remaining to drop the survivors off and taxi clear of the helicopter landing pad.

Lauwers was later presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions which actions decisively saved the lives of soldiers, PJ team and aircrew.

 

Tech. Sgt. John Rorie

Tech. Sgt. John Rorie, 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron flight engineer, recently deployed to Afghanistan for 105 days.

During this deployment, he flew 37 combat missions as a flight engineer aboard an EC-130H Compass Call, the Air Force’s premier electronic attack platform.

On those missions, he provided 189 hours of airborne electronic attack support to 68,000 ground forces engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom. Specifically, he provided support to 41 International Security Assistance Force and Task Force operations, which led to the capture of 28 high-value individuals, 100 detainees and eight weapons caches, as well as, the discovery of four improvised explosive devices.

In addition to his aerial accomplishments, he also preflighted 48 aircraft for combat sorties. His meticulous attention to detail led to the discovery of 14 maintenance discrepancies prior to launch, which enabled timely repairs, and subsequently, safe missions.

 

Capt. Thaddeus Fridgen

In March 2013, Capt. Thaddeus Fridgen deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, serving as the Weather Flight Commander for the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing. In addition to his primary duty, Fridgen was assigned as the wing’s Fallen Comrade Coordinator, a highly visible duty with significant responsibilities, primarily ensuring each coalition member who perished was given the honorable sendoff they deserved. Virtually every ceremony was attended by wing leadership.

As the FCC, Fridgen worked closely with his Army counterparts to coordinate, plan and execute all fallen hero ceremonies. Along with its proximity to much of the violent parts of the country, Bagram Airfield is also the largest of three installations in Afghanistan that have a Mortuary Affairs Collection Point. Because of this, the majority of fallen heroes transit through Bagram before flying home one final time. Although each ceremony is unique and equally important, there are a few that stand out to Fridgen.

On April 3, 2013, an F-16 Fighting Falcon piloted by Air Force Capt. James Michael Steel, deployed from the 77th Fighter Squadron at Shaw AFB, crashed into the mountains near Bagram Airfield. This was the first ceremony Fridgen was entrusted to coordinate and therefore one that he will never forget. Then on June 18, the Taliban launched an indirect fire attack on the base, killing four Army soldiers. This ceremony was particularly difficult to plan and conduct as a father of one of the soldiers, a contractor at another base in Afghanistan, would be present for the ceremony. Finally, on September 5, a small arms firefight occurred just outside of Bagram Airfield, and a security forces patrol member, Air Force Staff Sgt. Todd Lobraico Jr., was killed in action. Since most of the ceremonies were for Army members, it was rare for Fridgen to put together a memorial for a fellow Airman.

In all, Fridgen was directly responsible for the coordination and execution of 30 ceremonies, helping send 59 heroes home to their loved ones with the honor and dignity they so richly deserved.

“It was, without a doubt, the most humbling and honorable experience of my life,” Fridgen said.

 

Senior Master Sgt. William Kubik III

While deployed to Iraq, Senior Master Sgt. William Kubik III served as Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, Executive Services Division, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. During his time there, he was exposed to indirect fire on more than 20 occasions.

He assumed a central role in the planning and coordination of a flawlessly executed United States Forces-Iraq Change of Command Ceremony. This highly complex and fluid ceremony was attended by numerous high-level U.S. Government and Government of Iraq officials, to include the vice president of the U.S., Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This ceremony was not only a change of command for USF-I, it also represented the transition from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn.

In addition, Kubik provided support and supplies to local children.

For his exceptionally meritorious service, he was awarded the Bronze Star medal and two Joint Service Commendation Medals.

Kubik continued his high standard of performance through his most recent deployment.

During his deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Kubik served as the Force Support Flight Superintendent.

He was responsible for the accountability and bed-down of 4.500 personnel. His superb leadership skills were critical to casualty reporting operations, authoring 35 messages and gaining the approval of one Purple Heart in less than 24 hours. He supervised the revalidation and issue of over 2,000 meal cards which eliminated 1,000 unauthorized users installation-wide and increased contractor accountability by 217 percent. Kubik also supported the base safety program by removing birds from the airfield.

He also organized Operation Zulu which provided hundreds of Christmas presents to deployed personnel across Kandahar, improving moral.

For his outstanding performance, Kubik received his third Meritorious Service Medal.

 

Capt. Brian Dicks

Capt. Brian Dicks, 55th Rescue Squadron pilot, flew seven high-risk casualty evacuation missions while he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. Two of the missions were exceptionally difficult and required Dicks’ as well as the crew to be at the top of their game.

Dicks and his crew evacuated three wounded soldiers from a hot landing zone while under intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Additionally, when a United States infantry unit became pinned down by enemy fire, Dicks and his formation suppressed the enemy position and coordinated close air support from two Army attack helicopters that destroyed the threat, saving an entire platoon.

During another mission, Dicks responded to a Stryker convoy which had struck an improvised explosive device. He executed a difficult restricted visibility approach to a roadside landing zone and successfully evacuated four soldiers.

Thanks to Dicks’ composure and quick thinking in the field, he was able to protect and rescue several American troops while in Afghanistan. He was later presented with the Kight Award as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.

 

Captain Dennis Hargis

On October 14, 2007, HAWG 05, a flight of A-10s led by Captain Dennis Hargis, was returning from a mission in southern Afghanistan. He was alerted to an active troops in contact (TIC) situation nearby. Captain Hargis told the controller HAWG flight was available but low on gas. Despite possessing only 20 minutes of fuel and with no refueling tanker close by, but with troops in desperate need of help, Captain Hargis directed HAWG flight to engage the enemy.

As the flight arrived at the scene, a 10-vehicle convoy from the Army’s 82d Airborne Division was taking withering fire from both sides of the road they were patrolling. The Soldiers were struggling with numerous severely wounded personnel. Pinned down and unable to move to a medevac helicopter four miles away, the Soldiers’ situation was grim.

Though the Soldiers did not have a Joint Terminal Attack Controller to direct CAS responses, Captain Hargis was able to make contact with the convoy, and the ground commander eagerly granted permission for HAWG flight to engage the enemy at ranges dangerously close to the convoy’s position. Captain Hargis assumed full responsibility for target identification, collateral damage, and, most importantly, protection of the Soldiers. Captain Hargis and his wingman then aggressively engaged the enemy with their A-10s’ 30mm cannon, punishing the enemy with devastating effects and decisively turning the tide of the fight on the ground.

Though several Soldiers sustained serious injuries from enemy action, they all are alive today thanks to Captain Hargis’ remarkable heroism.

 

Capt. Miles Newsome

In April 2013, Capt. Miles Newsome deployed to Afghanistan, serving as the Chief of Standardization and Evaluation for the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group.

Newsome was responsible for seven separate flying squadrons at his deployed location and flew close air support missions as an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot.

As the Chief of Stan/Eval for the group, Newsome was instrumental in preparing the 455th EOG for the Air Force’s Central staff assistance visit, in which the 455th EOG received one of two overall outstanding ratings given by AFCENT inspectors in the entire area of responsibility. Additionally, he was named as an outstanding performer during the visit.

However, these accomplishments were overshadowed by Newsome’s very first mission during this deployment– one he will never forget.

Newsome and his partner took off at approximately 1 p.m. and immediately conducted in-flight refueling. While Newsome was refueling, the team received a call to respond to a Task Force Mission in northern Afghanistan. The team arrived on scene after receiving fuel and began searching for enemy forces. After being on scene for more than two hours with no development, they were re-tasked further northwest to another Task Force Mission. After being on scene for another two hours, it was again time to refuel. Newsome coordinated with the Control and Reporting Center to arrange for refueling.

Yet again, while at the tanker, he was reassigned to another mission about 100 miles east of the current tasking. After spending another two hours there, the team was finally released to return to base. They had about 150 miles to fly home and were getting low on fuel. About 75 miles north of the airfield, a call came across the radio; there were troops in contact at the same location as the first tasking they had responded to that day.

This time however, there were more than 30 troops pinned down on a river bank with no way to egress or break contact from hostile fire. Newsome’s team arrived on scene with just enough time to figure out where the friendlies were in relation to the enemy before the ground situation escalated. They were immediately given authorization to employ ammunition on the enemy, who were 100 meters away from friendly forces and closing. The team re-attacked multiple times, each time refining their impact points closer and closer to friendly forces.

By this time, fuel was becoming a factor and the inbound A-10 flight had arrived on scene just in time provide uninterrupted air power on the enemy. Newsome handed the battlefield over to them and began the flight back to base.

After Newsome got out of his jet, he was informed there was an urgent phone call patched in from the field. It was from the troops on the ground that he had just provided close air support for. They wanted to thank his team for getting them out of a bad situation.

“Saving American and coalition lives on the ground is what close air support is all about,” Newsome said. “It was a mission I will always remember.”




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