by Capt. Jason Yuhasz
152nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
12/19/2013 - RENO, Nev. -- More
than a decade after participating in a battle in Afghanistan that
included small arms fire, machine gun fire and mortar attacks, eight
Nevada Air Guard members received long-awaited Air Force Combat Action
Medals at the Nevada Air National Guard Base here on Dec. 5.
The eight Airmen helped fend off an attack on Bagram Airfield on Feb.
22, 2002. All of the Airmen were with the 152nd Security Forces Squadron
at the time of the incident.
According to the 152nd Force Support Squadron, the eight are the only
Nevada Guard Airmen to receive Combat Action Medals during the ongoing
Global War on Terrorism. The Air Force Combat Action Medal was first
awarded in 2007 and may be awarded for combat actions dating back to
Sept. 11, 2001. The award is reserved for Airmen who have physically
engaged hostile forces with direct and lethal fire.
The Airmen received their medals from Nevada Adjutant General Brig. Gen.
Bill Burks. Sen. Harry Reid also attended the ceremony. Reid's office
had helped the Airmen receive their medals after bureaucratic delays.
Airmen receiving Combat Action Medals were: Senior Master Sgt. Michael
Del Soldato of Sparks, Nev.; retired Master Sgt. John Blevins of Reno;
Capt. Lawrence Chappell of Pleasanton, Calif., Master Sgt. Clinton
Dudley of Incline Village, Nev., retired Chief Master Sgt. Todd Shipley
of Reno, Master Sgt. Harry Wheeler of Carson City, Nev., Master Sgt.
David McNeely of Reno, and retired Master Sgt. Jerry Miller of Reno.
Blevins said the battle occurred just as an aircraft prepared for takeoff.
"It was a firefight around an aircraft we were trying to get off the
ground before it was hit," Blevins said. "My team was working air flight
operations and we started receiving tracer fire from the mountains and
it turned into a firefight."
Del Soldato, currently deployed, and Chappell were the only medal recipients not present.
Shipley said Del Soldato had spearheaded the effort for the Airmen to receive their medals.
"The award of the Air Force Combat Action Medal didn't come easily for a
Guard unit," Shipley said to a Reno newspaper. "(Del Soldato) was the
one who contacted Sen. Reid's office and engaged them. Because of the
perseverance by someone who is not here because he is deployed, this
Reid noted the Airmen were threatened with thousands of rounds of
ammunition from the surrounding mountains aimed toward the base.
"Ladies and gentlemen, they are the heroes that make it safe for my
children and grandchildren and America in general," Reid said. "These
battles don't come very often but when they come, they have to be
prepared and these heroes have honored Nevada and our country."