***image1***A joint terminal air controller assigned to the 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron was awarded a Purple Heart Jan.16 by the new U.S. Air Forces in Europe Commander, Gen. Roger A. Brady, for wounds received in action near Sinsil, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Jason “JJ” Johnson received the medal during a ceremony in his room at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center where he is recovering from the injuries he suffered Jan. 9. The medal presentation was one of the first acts performed by General Brady since taking command of USAFE.
Assigned to Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany, the 3rd Air Force NCO was deployed in support of the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. The unit was participating in Operation Phantom Phoenix, a combined U.S. and Iraqi forces offensive to clear al Qaeda militants from several key areas across the eastern portion of the Diyala Province.
On Jan. 9, Sergeant Johnson and Senior Airman Christopher Beversdorf were embedded with a platoon assigned with clearing operations in the area when they approached a small village near Sinsil. Sergeant Johnson dismounted from his armored Stryker vehicle to accompany the platoon leader into a courtyard surrounded by three buildings to find a better location for the Airmen to provide tactical communications with aircraft flying close air support missions.
Sergeant Johnson waited near the courtyard while some platoon Soldiers began clearing the buildings. The first two buildings were cleared without incident, and the platoon began clearing the final building. Anticipating using the roof of this building as an observation point once it was cleared, Sergeant Johnson began walking forward when the building exploded.
The building had been fixed as a type of house-borne improvised explosive device. The blast caused Sergeant Johnson to break a clavicle and several ribs while leaving severe burns on his neck and face. Six regiment Soldiers were killed and three others were wounded in the explosion.
“We were there doing what needed to be done,” Sergeant Johnson said. “It’s just a shame to lose anybody, especially that many guys in one mission.”
After the blast, Airman Beversdorf and the remaining platoon members immediately gave first aid to Sergeant Johnson and began searching for the other Soldiers. The NCO would eventually be medically evacuated to Germany.
Joining General Brady in honoring Sergeant Johnson was 3rd AF Commander Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop, USAFE Command Chief Master Sgt. Pamela Derrow, and 3rd AF Command Chief Master Sgt. Martin Klukas. Sergeant Johnson’s wife, Patience, and parents, Mark and Leslie Johnson, were also in attendance. The NCO’s father lauded the care his son has received.
“The health care Jason received was phenomenal,” Mr. Johnson said. “All military members need to understand that if this was to ever happen to them, they will be taken care of.”