War on Terrorism

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wisconsin Airman awarded for combat actions in Afghanistan

By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

An Airman's heroics were recognized Saturday (March 5) as Wisconsin National Guard leaders presented the Air Force Combat Action Medal to a member of the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing.

Tech. Sgt. William Williams, 115th Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight, braved hostile fire while on a mission to locate a missing U.S. Sailor in Afghanistan's Logar Province in an effort to blow up an unexploded mortar round at the request of a U.S. Army search team.

As Soldiers laid down suppressive fire, Williams emerged from cover and ran to the mortar. He placed charges, took cover and conducted a controlled detonation. He then picked up his M-4 assault rifle and joined his comrades in engaging the enemy.

Williams is just the fourth Wisconsin Air Guard member to receive the AFCAM since the award's inception in 2007. The criterion for the award is that the individual must have been under direct and hostile fire while operating in unsecured space (outside the defended perimeter), or physically engaging hostile forces with direct and lethal fire.

Although Williams' job of eliminating unexploded ordnance is dangerous enough, this was his first experience in combat. "The first time [getting shot at] is definitely an attention grabber," Williams said. "I'm actually really proud of myself because you never know how you're going to perform in that situation."

Williams' actions came in 2010 while serving on his third deployment as an explosive ordinance disposal technician. He was attached to the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team operating from Forward Operating Base Altimur, south of Kabul.

Lt. Col. Kevin Philpot, 115th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, said he is proud of Williams' actions.

"I'm not surprised at all that he was able to perform extremely effectively in a difficult situation," Philpot said. "That doesn't surprise because of who he is and the type of training [EOD Airmen] receive."

Williams received small squad tactics, shooting and other technical training as part of 30 days of pre-deployment or "Combat Ready Airman" (COBRA) training at Tyndall Air Force Base, Tenn.

Williams hails from Sun Prairie, Wis., and is married with two children. He enlisted into the active duty Air Force in 1996 and has been stationed around the globe, including Aviano Air Base, Italy; Incirlik Air Base, Turkey; Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Osan Air Base, Korea, and Nellis and Scott Air Force Bases in Nevada and Illinois, respectively. He joined the 115th in 2008.

Earlier in the deployment, Williams was called upon at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan to "render safe" four suicide bombers with explosives strapped to their chest. Though the insurgents died from gunshot wounds before reaching the Bagram Air Base fence line, the explosives still needed to be cleared.

This is the type of task Williams has come to know and love from his job. He admitted he loves his family and loves his job, but to be a successful EOD technician, a clear mind is a must.

"You can't be distracted while you're doing that," Williams said. "Once you have time to reflect on it, then you definitely thank God you're still around for your family."

2nd Lt. Steven Montgomery contributed to this story

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