***image1***As she quickly loaded her magazine, she heard, “incoming” and ducked into a doorway as a rocket hit the adjacent building she had just left, destroying it in a single second.
Senior Airman Alanna Jolley was in the second week of her deployment in Afghanistan when her unit came under attack. Airman Jolley is a 1st Air and Space Communications Operations Squadron network administrator who was filling an in-lieu-of deployment tasking for the Arm,y while working outside of her specialty to provide radio support to convoy teams.
Airman Jolley, assigned to the National Support Element, was sent to a small forward operating base in southeastern Afghanistan May 11.
She had been told not to worry about attacks because there hadn’t been any in the past two years. Minutes after Airman Jolley installed a communication upgrade inside the tactical operations center, the first rocket hit nearby.
“We were encountering rocket, mortar and small arms fire all at the same time. My heart rate definitely spiked, and my first thought was to get out of that plywood building, and grab my weapon and body armor,” she said.
When she ran outside the building to load her weapon, she heard someone yell “incoming” for the third time.
Just 30 feet away, a rocket hit the tactical operations center as she ducked into a doorway surrounded by mud walls. At that moment, several of her coworkers thought she was still inside the building that had just exploded.
“There was a lot of dust and smoke,” she said. “Fire alarms were going off, the ground was shaking. My adrenaline was pumping and the tactical operations center was completely destroyed.”
Soon after the explosion, Airman Jolley climbed up to the roof of a building to install communication equipment in order to establish an alternate tactical operations center.
As the rockets flew into the base, she worked on the rooftop equipment in plain view.
“The military trains us for these types of situations all the time. Most people never expect to be caught in one, but it happens,” she said.
“Despite the intensity of the situation, military training instincts took over and I found it easy to concentrate on the task at hand,” said Airman Jolley, who had several compliments about the Combat Skills Training she attended at Fort Dix, N.J.
The course covers several skill sets for deploying servicemembers including base defense techniques, convoy training, unmounted patrols and familiarization with improvised explosive devices.
She knew she had to work fast because the base commander, 1st Lt. Jason Cunningham, could not call for close air support until she had the equipment up and running.
After 10 minutes, the equipment was installed and Lieutenant Cunningham made the call for support. Airman Jolley then took action and joined the MK-19 grenade machine gun crew, said Lieutenant Cunningham.
The attacks continued for the following two days Airman Jolley was at the base, yet no friendlies were killed or seriously injured during those two days.
After her five-month deployment, she has returned to Ramstein and reflects on her experience.
“Overall the deployment was a great experience” she said. “I loved that my job was very hands on and operational. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to work with the Army; I learned a lot and I was exposed to a whole new side of military operations.”
Because of Airman Jolley’s quick action and courage during the attack, as well as her other accomplishments throughout the past year, she was nominated by U.S. Air Forces in Europe as the European Command Service Member of the Year.