Four wing members earn Bronze Star

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Chief Master Sgt. Paul Barendregt, a pararescueman with the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron receives the Bronze Star Medal at a ceremony here Dec. 7, 2013. Barendregt was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his actions during an insurgent attack at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, on Sept 14, 2012. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Chief Master Sgt. Paul Barendregt, a pararescueman with the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron receives the Bronze Star Medal at a ceremony here Dec. 7, 2013. Barendregt was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his actions during an insurgent attack at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, on Sept 14, 2012. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Senior Airman Andrew J. Nichols, a pararescueman with the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron receives the Bronze Star Medal in a ceremony here Dec. 7, 2013. Nichols was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his courageaous actions to save a wounded U.S. soldier under enemy fire in Afghanistan's Konar Valley on July 19, 2011. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Senior Airman Andrew J. Nichols, a pararescueman with the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron receives the Bronze Star Medal in a ceremony here Dec. 7, 2013. Nichols was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his courageaous actions to save a wounded U.S. soldier under enemy fire in Afghanistan's Konar Valley on July 19, 2011. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Dawn and Toshi, parents of Major Matthew S. Komatsu, a pararescueman with the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron, watch via video chat as their son recieves the Bronze Star Medal at a ceremony here Dec. 7, 2013. Komatsu was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his honorable service while engaged with the enemy at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan in September 2012. National Guard photo by: Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Dawn and Toshi Komatsu, parents of Major Matthew S. Komatsu, a pararescueman with the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron, watch via video chat as their son recieves the Bronze Star Medal at a ceremony here Dec. 7, 2013. Komatsu was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his honorable service while engaged with the enemy at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan in September 2012. National Guard photo by: Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Dawn and Toshi, parents of Major Matthew S. Komatsu, a pararescueman with the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron, watch via video chat as their son recieves the Bronze Star Medal at a ceremony here Dec. 7, 2013. Komatsu was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his honorable service while engaged with the enemy at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan in September 2012. National Guard photo by: Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Master Sgt. Kyle T. Minshew (right), a pararescueman with the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron, stands at attention as his Bronze Star Medal citation is read at a ceremony here Dec. 7, 2013. Minshew was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his heroic actions while engaged in ground combat at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan in September 2012. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Maj. Matthew S. Komatsu, Chief Master Sgt. Paul J. Barendregt, Master Sgt. Kyle T. Minshew and Senior Airman Andrew J. Nichols (left to right), pararescuemen with the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron, receive the Bronze Star Medal at a ceremony here Dec. 7, 2013. Komatsu, Barendregt and Minshew were awarded the Bronze Star for their couragious response to an insurgent attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, in September 2012; Nichols was recognized for saving the life of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan's Konar Valley in July 2011. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Maj. Matthew S. Komatsu, Chief Master Sgt. Paul J. Barendregt, Master Sgt. Kyle T. Minshew and Senior Airman Andrew J. Nichols (left to right), pararescuemen with the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron, receive the Bronze Star Medal at a ceremony here Dec. 7, 2013. Komatsu, Barendregt and Minshew were awarded the Bronze Star for their couragious response to an insurgent attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, in September 2012; Nichols was recognized for saving the life of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan's Konar Valley in July 2011. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Theulen.

JOINT BASE ELEMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Four members of the Alaska Air National Guard's famed 212th Rescue Squadron were awarded the Bronze Star Medal -- one of the nation's highest individual military honors -- in a ceremony at the squadron's headquarters building here Dec. 7, 2013.

Maj. Matthew Komatsu, a combat rescue office, and two pararescuers, Chief Master Sgt. Paul Barendregt and Tech. Sgt. Kyle T. Minshew, received the award for their actions in response to an insurgent attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, in September 2012. The fourth Guardsman, pararescuer Senior Airman Andrew J. Nichols, was recognized for his rescue of a critically injured U.S. soldier in Afghanistan's Konar Valley in July 2011.

On the evening of Sept. 14, 2012, 15 heavily armed insurgents wearing American military uniforms penetrated the perimeter of Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. The heavily armed attackers killed two American Marines and wounded nine others; they also destroyed six of the Marines' Harrier ground-attack jets and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

A pararescuer's normal duty is helicopter-borne combat search and rescue, pulling injured service members out of difficult and sometimes hostile situations. Komatsu, Barendregt and Minshew were resting at Camp Bastion on Sept. 14, 2012 when reports started to come in that the base was under attack. The three headed toward the fighting to treat casualties when they realized the insurgents were inside the wire.

"In my mind it meant that they could potentially be anywhere, not necessarily a obvious line of conflict," Barendregt said. "They were also wearing U.S. uniforms, which complicated things and increased the complexity; it was [going to be] necessary to temper our actions so as not to induce fratricide."

"There is no page in a book that covers this scenario," Barendregt remembered thinking, "so let's figure it out."

Over the next few hours the Guardsmen would find themselves not only treating patients but helping to clear out the base and re-establish the perimeter. Komatsu recounted his experience in an extended piece written for the New York Times' "At War" blog, here.

The Bronze Star award was "a reflection on the squadron and all that everyone in our unit does," Barendregt said. "There were a lot of moving pieces that preceded that event -- training, logistics and personnel. I just happened to be one of the lucky guys there that night."

Nichols was part of a helicopter mission to rescue a badly injured soldier on July 19, 2011. The soldier's unit was still taking fire and the terrain was rough, so the helicopter was forced to land 100 meters -- and six steep terraces -- above the soldier's location. Airman Nichols and his teammate began taking fire as soon as they exited the helicopter. After initially taking cover, the two sprinted the 100 meters under fire.

"The medical assessment was quick, maybe five to ten seconds," Nichols said. "He needed the surgical unit but it was immediately obvious that we could move fast to get out of the situation."

Nichols then hoisted the large soldier into a fireman's carry and brought him back the 100 meters, uphill and under fire, to safety.

"I've trained hundreds of times for firefights and, in the moment, it seemed like training," he said. "Our whole pipeline -- upgrade and predeployment training -- is tailored to situations just like that. For years before I was in Afghanistan, I was training for this exact mission: treating patients while under enemy fire, performing call for fires and returning fire as the situation dictates."

"I'm proud to be part of this team," Nichols said of his fellow squadron members. "Everyone here is exceptional at the job, I'm proud to be a part of that."

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.