689th CCW's Jameson receives Bronze Star with Valor

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Master Sgt. Gene Jameson, III, 689th CCW wing policy manager, stands proudly in front of the U.S. flag here August 23. Jameson was awarded the medal for his actions while deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan. He battled a fire started by an insurgent’s 107-millimeter rocket. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robert Talenti)

Master Sgt. Gene Jameson, III, stands proudly in front of the U.S. flag at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Aug. 23, 2012. Jameson was awarded the Bronze Star medal for his actions while deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan. He battled a fire started by an insurgent’s 107-millimeter rocket. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robert Talenti)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Col. Joseph Scherrer, 689th Combat Communications Wing commander, presents Master Sgt. Gene Jameson, III, 689th CCW wing policy manager, with the Bronze Star with Valor, August 23 at the South Training Area, Robins Air Force Base. More than 450 combat communicators participated in recognizing the senior non-commissioned officer's decoration. Jameson was deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, and battled a fire started by an insurgent’s 107-millimeter rocket. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robert Talenti)

Col. Joseph Scherrer presents Master Sgt. Gene Jameson, III, with the Bronze Star with Valor at the South Training Area, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Aug. 23, 2012. More than 450 combat communicators participated in recognizing the NCO's decoration. James is the 689th CCW wing policy manager and Sherrer is the 689th CCW commander.(U.S. Air Force photo/Robert Talenti)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Master Sgt. Gene Jameson, III, 689th CCW wing policy manager, and his wife Jessica, discuss his Bronze Star with Valor with members of the wing sitting in the stands after the awards ceremony here Aug. 23. Jameson was awarded the medal for his actions while deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan. He battled a fire started by an insurgent’s 107-millimeter rocket. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robert Talenti)

Master Sgt. Gene Jameson, III, and his wife Jessica, discuss his Bronze Star with Valor with members of the wing sitting in the stands after the awards ceremony at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Aug. 23, 2012. Jameson was awarded the medal for his actions while deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robert Talenti)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- In August of 2011, exactly two days after celebrating his birthday, Master Sgt. Gene Jameson, III, found his combat communications training put to use inside a compound at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Now, one year later, he was recognized for his heroism with a Bronze Star Medal with Valor during a ceremony Aug. 23 at Robins Air Force Base.

At the time, insurgents in the area had launched a rocket attack onto the base, with one hitting a building inside a United Arab Emirates special operations compound igniting a fire which quickly spread to nearby buildings.

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

Once on site, at about 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 20, he began directing heavy equipment operators on where to knock down buildings and established a fire break area so they could stop the fire.

Explosives, 80,000-gallon fuel tanks and a diesel generator inside the compound threatened to add to the fire if they succumbed to the flames. Hours into helping fight the fire, Jameson continued to enter and exit the compound to remove materials before they were destroyed.

"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, it fell slightly to the left."

Then things started to move quickly. "It completely blocked our own entrance and exit out of the compound," he continued. "It left me and one of my staff sergeants trapped."

The chaotic scene included random explosions of munitions, as well as flames well up to 60 feet high.

The senior non-commissioned officer assessed the situation, and found a way out through an area 150 yards long and about a yard-and-a-half wide of room with flames on either side. He and a fellow Airman carried the two crates, holding 250 pounds of high explosives, through the path and out safely to the other side.

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

Jameson's heroic actions had just helped save more than 50 lives, as well as 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 of the following day.

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

"I've spent 18-and-a-half 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 pointed out much of what he's learned 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 operations flight chief with the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.

Col. Joseph Scherrer, 689th CCW commander, described Jameson as quiet, hardworking, thorough, professional and a man who is a leader.

"You could say it's because of uncommon valor that we are here today" said Scherrer. "He is exactly the type of senior NCO that we strive for in the Air Force. He represented us in the finest tradition of combat communications. Sergeant Jameson didn't predict that he'd be a firefighter while on deployment, but it turned out he was the best one they had."

Jameson's citation read, "His crisis leadership during the five-hour ordeal prevented inevitable mass detonations and saved the lives of 50 personnel battling the raging inferno. By his heroic actions and unselfish dedication to duty, Sergeant Jameson has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."

The Bronze Star Medal with Valor is the fourth highest combat award in the armed forces.