Pararescueman awarded two Bronze Stars, saved three Afghan soldiers during firefight
By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 18, 2019
KABUL, Afghanistan — A reservist airman has been awarded two Bronze Star medals, including one with valor for risking his life to save three Afghan soldiers during a deployment.
Tech. Sgt. Nick Torres, a 308th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, aided the soldiers on March 30, 2018, during a mission in southern Kandahar province, an Air Force statement said.
Torres was initially dispatched to the scene to help one wounded soldier. He stopped the soldier’s arterial bleeding, then administered blood and medication before the patient was evacuated.
Shortly afterward, Torres’ team came under enemy fire.
“We all hit the deck,” Torres said, according to the statement. “I remember seeing the bulbs on the poppies getting hit as we moved through fields of them, which were in full bloom and around three feet high. Then I heard we had another casualty.”
The second injured soldier was shot multiple times and had a punctured lung. While returning fire, Torres inserted a hollow needle through the soldier’s chest to allow trapped air to escape.
Torres then got word that a third servicemember had been shot. He and two Army Rangers “disregarded their own safety to reach the soldier,” who Torres saved by applying a tourniquet on one of his legs and providing blood, the statement said.
Kandahar province, the Taliban’s heartland and home to a sprawling U.S. air base, has seen some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.
The team Torres was with killed 39 enemy combatants and detained nine, the Air Force said. Afghan special operations had targeted Taliban training centers in the area, according to a Pajhwok Afghan News report at the time.
More information on the operation was not immediately available from the Air Force on Thursday.
On Sunday, Air Force Space Command and Joint Forces Space Component commander Gen. John Raymond thanked Torres while presenting him with the two Bronze Stars at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.
“One of the Air Force’s core values is service before self, and I can’t think of another career field where that core value is front and center as it is with (pararescuemen),” he said, according to the statement.
Torres’ second Bronze Star was awarded for his combat medical work while deployed to Afghanistan in 2015 and 2016.
“Nick is one of the sharpest and most proficient medical operators in our career field,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Ziegler, 308th Rescue squadron’s chief enlisted manager.
The squadron is part of the 920th Rescue Wing, which specializes in combat search and rescue around the world and is the most combat deployed wing in the Air Force Reserve.
“This whole experience has been very humbling,” Torres said at the ceremony. “These types of things don’t happen in a vacuum. I am thankful for the training I have had from my unit, supervisors and peers. It’s such a huge group effort to make this happen and I am grateful that I was able to make a difference.”