Monday, May 24, 2010
Airmen neutralize threat to Bagram Airfield
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
5/24/2010 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- Members of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, with assistance from Soldiers and Marines, repelled an early morning attack May 19 here.
The attack began with indirect fire that caused no significant damage, said Lt. Col. James Lowe, the 455th ESFS commander.
Indirect fire is the use of rocket-propelled grenades, mortars or other explosive devices to engage an area.
"We started receiving small-arms fire and our perimeter security teams identified movements at several points along the perimeter fence," he said.
Once the Airmen gained positive identification on enemy positions, they engaged the enemy to neutralize any threats on the installation, he added.
The base was attacked from several positions as small teams of enemy combatants began to throw grenades, launch rocket-propelled grenades and continued small-arms fire toward the perimeter, Colonel Lowe said.
"I had just got on post in my tower," said Airman 1st Class Garrett Zeising, of the 455th ESFS. Once his changeover was complete, he assumed post and began a visual scan of the area.
Airman Zeising said he had been in his tower on the south side of the airfield for about five minutes when he heard an explosion.
"When I heard the explosion it was a small one and I thought it was an IDF attack," he said.
He stepped onto the catwalk of his tower and began to scan the area to look for a point of origin, but did not see the initial explosion. As he proceeded back into his tower to grab his radio, Airman Zeising said he noticed some suspicious personnel.
"Two individuals were walking along the perimeter in (Army combat uniforms)," he said. "As they were walking, one raised a rifle and began firing."
Once he saw the individuals firing, Airman Zeising said he proceeded out to engage them and noticed two more individuals in the distance.
"Once I started engaging, they moved to a covered position out of sight. I ran inside, grabbed my radio and when I was trying to call in, they reappeared and began to shoot randomly and throw grenades."
As Airman Zeising engaged the enemy, a support element of 455th ESFS Airmen and Soldiers from a quick reaction force moved to his position in support.
He neutralized two enemy combatants and when the other units arrived, the other enemy combatants were eliminated.
On the western perimeter another enemy team was trying to breach security, Colonel Lowe said.
"They engaged our towers trying to pin our Airmen down while other individuals tried to come over the barriers."
"We received two indirect fire attacks and I felt my tower shake a little bit," said Airman 1st Class Keegan Donnelly, of the 455th ESFS. "We then heard another area of the base was taking small-arms fire and were told to do what we needed to do to neutralize any threats."
Airman Donnelly, who was located on the western perimeter of the airfield, began to scan the area around his tower and noticed two individuals behind barriers outside his location.
"I noticed the individuals about 50 meters off one of our other towers and I called it in," Airman Donnelly said. "One of our mounted patrols comes across the radio and says two Marines are going to walk along the inside of the wire and do a sweep."
Seconds after the radio transmission is passed to Airman Donnelly, the Marines came under fire. His tower came under fire as well as the area around his position, he said.
"I immediately dropped to a knee and began to return fire," Airman Donnelly said.
As Airman Donnelly and other servicemembers in the area were engaging enemy combatants, joint terminal attack controllers called in Army helicopters to engage enemy positions along the perimeter as well.
In the end, the joint defense effort, led by 455th ESFS Airmen, eliminated more than 16 enemy combatants with minimal injuries to U.S. forces, Colonel Lowe said.
As the initial attacks on the perimeter began, many off-duty ESFS members began to gather, said Chief Master Sgt. Allen Graves.
"The response was exceptional. Initially, we pushed around 20 Defenders to areas along the perimeter. All told, we sent more than 90 off-duty Airmen out to support our Airmen in the towers and on patrol."
Chief Graves said they didn't even have time to recall anyone.
"The Airmen knew what their responsibility was and showed up with the 'Put me in coach' and 'Where do you need me' mentality,'" he said.
"Our Airmen executed the defense of the base with speed and discipline. They led the fight, working together with our sister services and coalition forces to ensure the security of the airfield," said Col. Jack Briggs II, the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander.
"I didn't expect to see what I saw," Airman Donnelly said. "I am proud of everything we did. We have trained for these situations and when the time came it all just kicked in and I did what I had to do."
"I could not be more proud of our Airmen," Colonel Briggs said. "I am lucky to be serving alongside our outstanding Airmen who accomplish extraordinary things every day, especially our Defenders."