U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Warren Williamson Jr., a medic with the
18th Medical Operations Squadron, sits in his "office", an
ambulance, at Kadena Air Base, Japan, July 24, 2012. Williamson was
recently awarded the Non-Commissioned Officers Association Vanguard
Award, for his heroic actions that saved the lives of others during
a deployment to Afghanistan last year. Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff
Sgt. Sara Csurilla
July 25, 2012 - “We were used to getting hit,” said Staff Sgt.
Warren Williamson Jr., a medic with the 18th Medical Operations
Squadron. “But that day...that day was different.”
300-plus combat missions he was a part of while deployed last year,
Williamson recalls a day he will never forget, a day he could have
lost everything, but gained so much more.
For his second
365-plus day deployment to Afghanistan, he was sent to a forward
operating base located in the Laghman Province of Afghanistan to be
the sole medic for a group of soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 181st
Infantry Regiment, Bravo Company.
“I was the primary doctor,
the sole provider there,” said the Chesapeake, Va., native.
“Dismounted elements wouldn't leave the truck without the doc,
without me. I escorted all dismounted missions away from the
Williamson said the day began like any other.
“That morning we headed out on a mounted combat patrol to a
green district, meaning there wasn't a whole lot of Taliban
activity,” he explained.
“The mission was for our team to provide security for a
few civil engineer officers to check out a courthouse in a
local district that had been rocketed by the Taliban,”
Williamson continued. “At the same time, I was to meet with
the district hospital medical provider there and discuss
some medical issues.”
The courthouse mission lasted
roughly two hours. They parked the convoy inside the
district and dismounted. The engineers walked the perimeter
of the district, and measured it, ending the fairly smooth
mission around 10 a.m.
“We were getting ready to
mount back up and continue on for my mission to meet the
doctor,” he said. “But first we had to maneuver our trucks
so that they weren't blocking traffic. So although some
soldiers were in the trucks, most of us were still on foot,
guiding the trucks and pulling security.”
“As we were
prepping to move the trucks, we were caught off guard,” he
continued. “Before we knew what was happening, an Afghan had
gotten on his motorcycle, road right through our formation,
and detonated a vehicle-borne IED, instantly killing
himself, injuring my guys and killing a bunch of his.”
More than 10 people were killed that day.
were knocked unconscious. I'm not sure how many of us were
on the ground, to be honest, but when I looked up, it was
just...chaos. I can't describe it any other way.”
and his team were no strangers to getting attacked. But,
Williamson said he knew this time was different. It was the
worst they've experienced in the six months they had already
“When I came to, the dust hadn't even
settled yet and all I could hear were screams and a group of
my guys dragging one of the soldiers closer to me screaming
‘doc, doc!',” explained the medic that spent two years
training with Air Force pararescuemen. “As they got closer I
got to my feet and helped get that soldier to the safest
place I could to treat his wounds, because at that point we
had started taking small arms fire as well.”
small dirt wall, shielded from incoming fire, Williamson did
everything he could to keep his soldiers alive.
used gauze and bandages, gave him drugs and fluid, and right
after I applied a tourniquet to his arm, that's when,” he
paused, this time with a deep breath. “I heard them calling
for me again.”
“So I put on the tourniquet and ran
over to my first sergeant, who I thought was dead,” he
remembered. “I didn't see him breathing, I didn't see him
yelling or screaming. I just saw huge holes in him. He was
Williamson knew he had to take action, and
quick. But as they started taking fire once again,
Williamson did the only the only thing he could and hurled
his body over his first sergeant, knowing he had to protect
“I didn't know where the attack was coming from
and it was just my first reaction,” Williamson humbly
explained. “It's my job to keep those guys healthy.”
“But we found a way to move my first sergeant to a safe
place and I got to work, trying to save this man's life,” he
continued. “I used everything I had --QuikClot, tourniquets,
bandages, drugs, and every last drop of the fluids I had.
All I could think was ‘stop the bleeding, save this person's
“Gosh, it's been just over a year ago, now,
and I've only ever told that story once,” he said.
The incident lasted about 10 minutes. Williamson said when
he looks back on this event it feels like he's watching an
“old slow-motion movie reel,” but at the time it, it seemed
like mere seconds.
Thanks to quick thinking,
dedication and selflessness, not only did every soldier
survive that day, they survived every mission, and returned
home to their families.
His actions that day has
earned him the Army Accommodation Medal with Valor and as a
result, the Non-Commissioned NCO Association Vanguard Award,
an award that recognizes NCOs who have performed a heroic
act, on or off duty, saving lives or preventing further
“It's kind of weird that somebody submitted
me for an award that involves saving a life when that's
really what my job is to do,” the 10-year veteran. “They did
their job, keeping me safe, so I just kind of returned the
favor, I think.”
Williamson recently travelled to Las
Vegas to receive the award at the Non-Commissioned Officer
Association Vanguard Tribute Banquet during the NCOA 2012
He and four other winners of the
Vanguard Award, one from each branch of Service, were
recognized by Lee Greenwood, a country music singer, at the
Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, July 12.
highlight of the night for Williamson was reuniting with an
old friend, the first sergeant he helped save.
honored to be at the Vanguard ceremony when Staff Sgt.
Williamson received the award,” said Army Master Sgt. Chris
Demars, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry, and first sergeant of
Williamson's deployed team. “Monday before the award
ceremony was the first time I was able to see Staff Sgt.
Williamson since the day he saved my life on the
“From an outsider perspective, seeing
two grown men hugging with tears in their eyes might have
seemed unorthodox,” Williamson said. “But for us, in that
moment, it was a perfectly normal response.”
him now healthy, Williamson said, conjured up emotions he
didn't think he'd ever felt before. He said he feels lucky
to have spent four days with Demars and his family.
“Master Sgt. Demars was and always will be a mentor, and
more than anything, a friend for life,” Williamson said.
By USAF Staff Sgt. Sara Csurilla
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