WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Hill Air Force Base Airman made the cut when the Air Force released its ninth volume of Portraits in Courage, highlighting five teams and seven individual Airmen for their honor, valor, devotion and selfless sacrifice in the face of extreme danger to themselves and others.
The Air Force selected Hill’s Staff Sgt. Kyle Bushey, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician with the 775th EOD Flight here.
From the Air Force Portraits in Courage Narrative:
On May 21, 2014, while deployed to the 466th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight Operating Location-Bravo, Tech. Sgt. Kristopher Parker, Senior Airman TJ Brantley and (then) Senior Airman Kyle Bushey, air assaulted into the mountains of Kandahar Providence in support of U.S. Army forces and Afghan Border Police.
They were tasked with clearing a cave system suspected of housing improvised explosive devices, ammunition and supply caches for insurgent forces.
On first descent, within 100 meters from the cave opening, a fire fight erupted with rounds striking within one meter of the Airmen. Team members immediately returned suppressive fire, pinning down the insurgents in the cave. After several air strikes their team destroyed four IED caches on their second approach to the cave.
Five hours into the mission the team approached the cave a third time following another round of close air support. The insurgents once again responded with machine gun fire from the cave opening. Brantley quickly returned fire and pulled a soldier out of the line of fire. During this engagement the Army lieutenant leading the element sustained a gunshot wound to the leg, instantly shattering bone.
Insurgents then fired rocket-propelled grenades and threw a 20-pound IED that detonated within three meters of their position, throwing Parker and Brantley back resulting in severe concussions. After assessing injuries while still under fire the pair provided combat care to the lieutenant while Brantley carried him to a new cover position, and continued assisting the medic with additional first aid even lying on top of the wounded lieutenant shielding him from additional injury.
While moving in and out of consciousness from heat exposure and without hesitation for his own personal safety, Bushey provided effective cover fire with his M-4 rifle on the sniper positions. With rounds striking the rocks in front of him, Bushey shifted his fire to the entrance of the cave to provide suppressive fire on the enemy locations, allowing friendly troops to safely evacuate the injured platoon leader.
Throughout the incident Bushey engaged the enemy with rifle fire and aided in the establishment of a new landing zone, making four trips up and down the mountain to guide reinforcements to the engagement area and provide resupply to his team.
After facilitating the platoon leader’s medevac, Parker evacuated with the rest of the unit, ending a 12-hour operation that sustained direct and indirect enemy fire and resulted in the destruction of an enemy stronghold. Due largely in part to Parker’s leadership and expertise no American lives were lost that day.
Bushey’s bravery and heroism selflessly put the lives of fellow Soldiers and Airmen before his own and directly enabled the trapped platoon to break contact and evacuate the wounded.
Throughout the grueling 10-hour mission, despite dehydration and a traumatic brain injury, Brantley stayed in the fight providing cover fire and exposing his body to protect the wounded. He was awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal and the Purple Heart Medal.
For their courageous actions, Parker was submitted for the Silver Star, and both Brantley and Bushey have been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor.
“Each story graphically depicts an Airman’s will to do the right thing, when it mattered most, and to selflessly accept risk for the life of another,” wrote Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody in the volume’s preface. “Our Airmen face these situations each and every day around the globe. Each of them has their own story. In fact, it would take many volumes to highlight them all.”
The 24 recipients represent multiple major commands and career fields including security forces, combat control, pararescue, explosive ordnance disposal and others. To date, the Air Force has recognized 199 Airmen through this project.
“We believe in them — not just for who they are, but for what they represent,” Welsh said. “They believe in integrity, in service, in excellence and are ready and willing to go in harm’s way. They continue to strengthen the spirit of our nation and have earned our highest degree of trust.”
All of this year’s Portraits in Courage stories and profiles from previous volumes are featured on the Air Force Portraits in Courage website.