Airmen Honor Fallen Comrade In Arms
(May 27, 2009)
|FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON,
Iraq (5/26/2009 - AFNS) -- Airmen here paid tribute to a fallen comrade
on the two-year anniversary of the death of a fire team
leader from the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces
Squadron, Det. 3, Police Transition Training Team here.|
|Capt. David Watts and
Senior Airman Cole Magin stand beside a wreath
placed as a memorial for Staff Sgt. John T. Self
who was killed in action two years ago on this
date when an improvised explosive device struck
his vehicle May 14 in Iraq. Captain Watts and
Airman Magin served with Sergeant Self and
currently are deployed in support of Operation
Staff Sgt. John T. Self was killed May 14,
2007, while out on patrol when the Humvee he was in struck
by an improvised explosive device. |
The convoy was making its way through a known hub for
anti-Iraqi force snipers and IEDs when the sergeant
succumbed to injuries sustained in that blast.
The PTT team dedicated the May 14 convoy mission to Sergeant
Self by first visiting the site where the IED struck the
vehicle. Two former members of Wildcard, the call sign for
the PTT team rotation, both Airmen who were deployed with
Sergeant Self, laid a wreath at the impact site and said a
"We come to this spot to honor our fallen Wildcard Warrior
known by us as 'the Jackal,'" said Capt. David Watts, the
former operations officer from the Wildcard PTT team. "I am
grateful for this chance to peacefully honor the life of
Sergeant Self. He died doing what he believed in and he
believed that being here and helping the Iraqi people was a
just cause. Two years later, his beliefs are reality; the
progress is amazing."
The experience provided a surreal moment for another member
of Sergeant Self's team. Senior Airman Cole Magin is on his
second tour with the PTT team.
"It's weird to be here right now," Airman Magin said of his
first visit to the scene of the attack since the sergeant's
death. "A big part of taking another deployment with the PTT
team was to give me a chance to get over losing (Sergeant
Self). I took a chance and today it's all about remembering
the man he was every day. He had the biggest heart. I wish
more people were like him."
The team paid their respects, made their way through the
city of Baghdad and arrived at Al-Bayaa Iraqi police
station, the Iraqi police station that Sergeant Self's squad
was responsible for training and mentoring.
Captain Watts and Airman Magin presented the wreath to the
station commander and asked that it be displayed proudly.
The captain also had the commander sign a metal plate with
pictures of the Wildcard squad in which Sergeant Self was a
"We remember him today," said the Iraqi police commander.
"We still carry a heavy burden for his death and we honor
him for his sacrifice. (The PTT) team has helped us so much
and we thank you so much."
The PTT team is responsible for providing outside-the-wire
combat support to the Iraqi police. They are responsible for
training the Iraqi police on tactical maneuvers and other
techniques necessary to provide security to the greater
In the two years following Sergeant Self's death, the city
has undergone a huge change. In many ways, the city is
beginning to come alive again after so much fighting.
"I never would have thought that anyone would be safe to
step outside their vehicles in broad daylight again," Airman
Magin said. "You still can't wander around aimlessly and you
can't let your guard down but it's a far sight better now
than I could have ever hoped for two years ago."
The memorial marked a moment of acceptance for the Airmen,
"I needed to be a part of this. It helps bring things full
circle for me," Airman Magin said. "To come back and finally
see change -- especially when we were so without hope -- has
helped me put to rest this anger I had for my friend being
killed. Seeing this place now, walking the streets, helps me
accept that what we did here two years ago helped accomplish
this. Sergeant Self would have liked to see this."
The captain echoed his sentiments.
"Two years ago, everything (was) hopeless," Captain Watts
said. "Knowing there's been such significant change has
helped us grasp that we were a part of creating this and
that Jackal's death wasn't for nothing. There's finally hope
By USAF SSgt. Stacia Zachary
U.S. Air Forces Central combat camera team
Air Force News Service
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