Airmen receive Army Combat Action Badge
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Army Col. Michael MacNeil initially had his doubts about a group of Air Force vehicle operations deploying to Iraq last year with his soldiers from 37th Transportation Command.
Most of the airmen had never seen combat, and they faced the perception among many battle-hardened Army soldiers of being “too soft” and not tough or experienced enough to do the job.
“But as soon as you hit the ground, you were right there,” MacNeil told the airmen during a Wednesday ceremony recognizing five airmen who came under fire while escorting a military convoy.
Airmen from the Ramstein-based 435th Vehicle Readiness Squadron faced the same risks and shared the same hardships as the soldiers, said MacNeil, who commanded the brigade-sized group of soldiers and airmen in Iraq.
The airmen also bled with their Army brethren.
Two airmen were killed on the deployment.
On Wednesday, the Army honored the airmen with the Army’s Combat Action Badge, which recognizes soldiers who have come under enemy fire. While hundreds of soldiers have earned the badge for action in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the list of Air Force personnel is considerably shorter.
The Air Force didn’t have a similar combat action badge until the service created its own earlier this year. The new Air Force Combat Action Medal is to be unveiled sometime in April.
The five airmen who received the badge were: Tech. Sgt. Daniell Stanton, Senior Airman Justin Monn, Staff Sgt. Terryl Dooley, Staff Sgt. Terra O’Rourke and Airman 1st Class Benjamin Finch.
Stanton said he is honored and humbled to receive the Army award. He said being recognized also helps dispel any myths or doubts about Air Force personnel.
“We knew hitting that ground, we had to show them we could do the job,” he said. “In the end, I think we wound up doing a lot better than what they expected from us. We did a lot better than even what we expected for ourselves.”
Some airmen said they hoped the deployment puts any skepticism to rest.
“You think of Air Force and you don’t think of going into combat and doing stuff like we do,” Monn added. “It’s kind of an honor to get something from the Army saying we did it.”
More airmen are facing combat as they help support Army soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many airmen have gone outside their Air Force job specialties to take on risky convoy operations.
Four of the five airmen who received their badges Wednesday at the Nightingale Theater at Ramstein came under attack while protecting a convoy of 22 tractor trailers and six Army vehicles on Jan. 4, 2006.
The convoy was en route to Camp Taji from Baghdad when it began taking small-arms fire. The group didn’t receive any serious damage and nobody was injured despite not being able to return fire because of a fuel tanker convoy nearby.
The other airman, Finch, was attacked while on a convoy in Sadr City in Iraq.
Although soldiers wear their badges on their uniform, the Air Force does not allow airmen to wear the Army award. The Ramstein airmen received their badge framed. About one-third of the soldiers with the Army company received the badge because of action faced on the deployment, MacNeil said.
When the Air Force comes out with its own combat badge, the airmen from the squadron are expected to also receive that medal.