7th Security Forces MWD trainers SSgt McRell and TSgt Rhodes receive Bronze Star and Purple Heart Medals
1/24/2014 – DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Two 7th Bomb Wing Security Forces Airmen received two of the highest military awards available during a ceremony Jan. 24, here.
“These two defenders are heroes and warriors,” said Brig. Gen. Glen VanHerck, 7th BW commander. “They selflessly go down range to save lives without hesitation.”
Staff Sgt. Erica McRell, 7th SFS, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for her acts of heroism, merit and meritorious service exhibited while in a combat zone.
During her most recent deployment, McRell and her military working dog Jonny were attached to an Army Special Forces unit. She was the first female military working dog trainer from Dyess, embedded with an Army Special Forces unit.
During operations, McRell’s position was lead. She was responsible for locating and isolating improvised explosive devices. McRell and Jonny saved lives by finding more than 50 IEDs throughout southern Afghanistan. Her actions directly resulted in a significant reduction in terrorist activity against local citizens and dramatically restricted the enemy’s ability to operate.
McRell said she is grateful to the 7th Security Forces Squadron military working dog unit, who trained and prepared her for the deployment. She is most thankful for the training she received from her supervisor, Staff Sgt. Andre Hernandez, 7th SFS.
Tech. Sgt. Rafael Rhodes, 7th SFS, was awarded the Purple Heart and Air Force Combat Action Medals for being wounded in action against an enemy of the United States and for directly engaging an enemy while his life was at risk of grave danger.
Rhodes received the Purple Heart and Air Force Combat Action Medals after sustaining injuries while on a mission during his third deployment. Rhodes was returning to Bagram Airfield after a 12 hour outside-the-wire mission when an IED detonated adjacent to the lead vehicle he and his MWD Nero were riding in.
Only seconds after the initial detonation, the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle which was hit by the explosion began taking small arms fire. After an assessment of the team, Rhodes and Nero were instructed to dismount and sweep for additional explosives. Upon completion of the sweep, Rhodes returned to his MRAP and rendered first aid to the vehicle gunner who was unconscious.
Originally introduced as the Badge of Military Merit by Gen. George Washington in 1782, the Purple Heart Medal is the oldest military medal in the United States military.
Rhodes said his kennel section is his family, the support they have given him has been huge and that he couldn’t thank them enough.
Gen. Glenn VanHerck, 7th Bomb Wing commander, noted that this award was not only reflected of McRell and Rhodes, but also the military working dogs that were there with them during every event they encountered.
“These are not just dogs, they are Airmen, out there getting the mission done every day alongside their trainers,” VanHerck said. “They are a part of our team and have saved countless lives as well.”
by Senior Airman Peter Thompson
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Glen VanHerck, 7th Bomb Wing commander, presents Staff Sgt. Erica McRell, 7th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, with the Bronze Star Medal Jan. 24, 2014, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. McRell took part in the planning and execution of more than 100 combat patrols in southern Afghanistan. Her position in the unit, lead, assumed the most risk with minimal direct protection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Ebensberger/Released)
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Glen VanHerck, 7th Bomb Wing commander, presents Tech. Sgt. Rafael Rhodes, 7th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, with the Purple Heart and Air Force Combat Action Medals Jan. 24, 2014, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. Rhodes was awarded for being wounded in action against an enemy of the United States and for directly engaging an enemy while his life was at risk of grave danger while deployed in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Ebensberger/Released)
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