Two airmen awarded Bronze Stars for 2012 heroism in Afghanistan
Two airmen were honored for their bravery while deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 on Monday at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Cpt. Kevin Epstein and Tech. Sgt. Brandon Daugherty were awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for their actions during a rescue operation of a Marine Corps vehicle disabled by a roadside bomb during a patrol in the Helmand River Valley on Feb. 21, 2012, according to the award ceremony’s program.
Epstein and Daugherty serve with the 55th Rescue Squadron, a Davis-Monthan-based unit that flies Pavehawk helicopters in combat search and rescue operations.
“[Epstein and Daugherty] are not just exceptional as a combat rescue officer and as a para-rescue man but they are exceptional American airman and leaders,” said Col. Sean Choquette, who pinned the medals on their uniforms. “They are experts in their profession, they are leaders of airmen, they are providers for their families and above all they are men of character.”
The ambush left one 14-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle turned over on its side, with three wounded and one killed-in-action service member trapped inside, the program said.
Once the team was on scene and in position, Daugherty directed the team to use the jaws of life to open the damaged vehicle and rescue the trapped personnel, the program said. When the wounded were accounted for and Daugherty was calling in the statuses of the wounded to Epstein, a second roadside bomb went off.
The blast severely wounded Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marine Michael Stringer, who was at the award ceremony.
Daugherty discovered Stringer, and the team immediately began lifesaving care while Epstein called in another medical evacuation request, the program said.
“I bit an IED pretty well, and these guys also got bit,” said Michael Stringer. “So even after they got bit and their bells were ringing, they were still able to revert back to their training and save my life, literally save my life.”
The Bronze Star was created on Feb. 4, 1944, and is the fourth highest medal that an airman can be awarded, according to the Air Force Personnel Center. When the medal is worn with a “V device,” which stands for valor, the medal was issued for heroism.
“I had an outstanding team while I was out there and I was fortunate enough to be part of that team,” said Epstein. “I think today is a culmination of that, we went through a lot training up and we went through a lot out there and today is kind of a pride and humility of all of that hard work and everything coming together.”