Robins Airman receives Bronze Star with valor

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
In August 2011, exactly two days after celebrating his birthday, Master Sgt. Gene Jameson III found his combat communications training put to use at a Bagram Airfield compound in Afghanistan.

A year later, he was recognized for heroism here with a Bronze Star Medal with valor during a ceremony Aug. 23.

During his deployment, insurgents attacked the base with rockets. One hit a building inside a United Arab Emirates Special Operations compound, and ignited a fire which moved to nearby buildings.

"It was spreading pretty fast," recalled Jameson, 689th Combat Communications Wing manager of wing policy. "It started out with one building, and ended up burning five and a half acres - roughly 80 to 90 buildings."

Once on site, about 10:30 p.m. on August 20, he began directing heavy equipment operators, and determining a fire break to stop the fire.

There was a lot of fuel inside the compound to feed the fire, including a multitude of explosives, 80,000-gallon fuel tanks and a diesel generator. Hours into helping fight the flames, Jameson found himself entering and exiting the compound several times, carrying materials away from the fire.

"The fourth time I found two crates of explosives - one was filled with shoulder-launch anti-tank missiles, and the other crate held grenades," he said. "When we went to relocate them, the last building we were trying to demolish, instead of it falling the way we thought it was going to, fell slightly to the left."

"It completely blocked our entrance and exit to the compound," he added. "It left me and one of my staff sergeants trapped."

The chaotic scene included random munitions explosions and flames up to 60 feet high.
Jameson assessed the situation, and found a way out through an area 150 yards long and a yard and a half wide, surrounded by flames. He and the sergeant carried the two crates, holding 250 pounds of high explosives, down the path and out safely to the other side.

Exhausted, and having already churned out a 16-hour workday, he came out alive - but with boots melted, hair burned off his arms and a charred uniform. He also had trouble breathing.

Jameson's heroic actions had helped save more than 50 lives, facilities and equipment that prevented mass detonations.

He spent more than six hours on the scene, and was finally able to lay his head down to rest during the early morning hours the following day.

Reflecting on the situation a year later, he described the medal as a huge honor.

"I've spent 18 years in the Air Force, and have received a lot of good training which I was able to put to use. It's pretty humbling," he said. "You never know whether or not you've met all the criteria in your own mind, but someone thought I did. So I am honored to accept this."

On his training with the 689th CCW at Robins, whether during exercises involving explosives going off around you or people shooting at you, he said that much of what he has learned has taught him to prioritize situations in the midst of the unexpected.

"It teaches you how to keep calm while there is chaos around you," he said. "And with all the chaos that was going on - with fire advancing, smoke, explosions - that training kicks in and you know your to-do list. You say 'these are my priorities and I have to get these things done to get myself out of here.'"

Jameson served in Afghanistan from March to November 2011, as the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron operations flight chief.

Editor's note: The Bronze Star Medal with valor is the fourth highest combat award in the armed forces.