by Desiree N. Palacios
Air Force News Service
3/27/2013 - FORT MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- She
was four days out before returning home to Dover Air Force Base, Del.,
from her deployment in Provincial Reconstruction Team, Farah,
Master Sgt. Jennifer Allara and her explosive ordinance team started the
day off at 0330 for a routine combat mission patrol. Allara and her EOD
teammates went outside the fence to sweep an ally they call 'IED alley'
in Shewan, Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, they didn't foresee what was about to happen next.
Allara is a 436th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordinance Disposal
team leader currently based out of Dover AFB, Del., who had her world
turned upside down in a matter of minutes.
"We are trained to accept a certain amount of danger with our job,"
Allara said. "And I always thought in terms of me, what if something
happens to me? What if we get blown up? I wasn't thinking in terms of
losing a team member in a turret. It was a very big wake-up call."
It was on that fateful day in September 2009, Allara lost her good
friend and co-worker, Staff Sgt. Bryan Berky, during an attack.
Her team was involved in a firefight and as they tried to turn around to
get out of the firefight their vehicle got stuck in the sand. She said
as her team tried to get their vehicle out of the sand, a team of Afghan
national soldiers flew 500 meters ahead of her team in trucks.
She recalls them disappearing into a large cloud of smoke and hearing a detonation.
"The only thing I could think of ... that was us ... that was going to be me," she said. "And they just took that."
They were receiving indirect fire and mortars when another team member
yelled out to their turret gunner, Berky, to see if he was Ok.
Allara looked over to Berky and noticed he was hunched over in his
harness and unresponsive. She pulled an emergency latch and pulled him
into her lap. She yelled out for a medic, then noticed the small bullet
hole in his head.
Her team grabbed a medic, put him into their vehicle and they drove to a
casualty evacuation point. As the fire fight continued a field surgeon
did everything to save him. Unfortunately, Berky doesn't make it.
With four days left before her team was heading home, Allara was allowed
to fly back with Berky's remains back to the United States.
As a result of her attack, Allara suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury
and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition she struggles with to
She credits her coworkers helping her to get where she is today. She
thanks their constant check-ups and looking her in the eye and asking
her ... how are you doing? Are you Ok?
"Knowing what's wrong with me and working with the doctors to combat
that, if I know what it is, I can overcome it," Allara said. "I'm
looking forward to the holistic approach they take in treatment. That
Allara hopes to be an example for others returning from a deployment. She hopes her story will help other to seek help.
"There is no shame in getting help," she said. "There is no shame in
recognizing what is going on with someone and being able to reach out
and help. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of
She stresses that Airmen shouldn't feel ashamed if they are experiencing symptoms of PTSD.
"PTSD is not what's wrong with you, it's what happened to you," Allara
said. "It's a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. I'm looking
forward to the holistic approach to their treatment and diagnosis."