After serving 20 years filled with numerous deployments and
temporary duty assignments without an issue, one weather Airmen’s
life changed forever during a an indirect fire incident on Dec. 31,
Senior Master Sgt. Jason Ronsse, Pacific Air Forces
weather training standardization and evaluation and policy manager,
was deployed as superintendent for the 19th Expeditionary Weather
Squadron at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, when a rocket impacted
outside his office.
Senior Master Sgt. Jason Ronsse, Pacific Air Forces weather
training standardization and evaluation and policy manager, kneels
beside an impact point after an indirect fire attack, Bagram Air
Base, Afghanistan on December 31, 2013. Ronsse was deployed with the
19th Expeditionary Weather Squadron when a rocket impacted outside
his office. (Courtesy photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt.
“Until the rocket impact, my deployment was great,” said
Ronsse. “As the superintendent, I was charged with taking
care of my Airmen.”
Throughout his career, Ronsse had several temporary duty
assignments and deployments throughout the Middle East and
Africa that helped prepare him for his role in the 19th
Expeditionary Weather Squadron.
“At the time, the
indirect fire didn’t really bother me, because I was already
used to the attacks” said Ronsse.
On New Year’s Eve,
Ronsse had returned to his work center when the rocket
impacted outside of his office.
“The building I
worked in was an old control tower made from concrete with a
window, and it felt pretty safe,” said Ronsse. “As soon as I
closed the door, this bright white light flashed and the
blast blew open the window. It pushed me into the concrete
wall against the copier machine.”
himself for injuries, Ronsse went outside to begin the
battle damage assessment.
“That’s where good
training just takes over,” said Ronsse. “I don’t remember a
lot of what happened. I just reacted.”
performed the damage assessment, he returned to his office
where he found the brass door knob to his office on the
“I looked down and there was a twisted hunk of
metal that used to be the door knob, and you could see where
the shrapnel passed through,” said Ronsse. “I kept it. Not
to hang on to the memory, but I’m just amazed I survived
Ronsse continued his deployment and returned
home at the end of February 2014.
“When I got back,
I knew that there was something internally that just wasn’t
right. I didn’t feel like myself,” said Ronsse. “I tried to
tough it out and assumed it would go away.”
after returning from his deployment, Ronsse was diagnosed
with nerve damage, torn tendons, a hernia, a mild traumatic
brain injury, and ringing in his ears.
“To me, the
blast was secondary to some of the things I was exposed to
while being out there,” said Ronsse. “While deployed, I
remember going to a hospital in Kabul and seeing children
with limbs blown off. And in your mind you say, ‘it doesn’t
even make sense that this can be humanly possible.’ It’s
tough. There are things you witness that part of you doesn’t
want to believe can actually happen.”
Over the next
couple of years, Ronsse began to notice changes in his
behavior like memory loss, trouble focusing, and anxiety.
According to Cisco Johnson, Air Force Wounded
Warrior Program recovery care coordinator, some of the
common symptoms of PTSD memory loss, forgetfulness, anxiety,
agitation, and withdrawal from outside activities or
“I used to think that PTSD wasn’t a real
thing or at least it was over used,” said Ronsse. “But then
I noticed that my wife and kids began adapting to the quirks
I developed. To me it wasn’t a big deal until all these
little things started to add up. It was then my Chief
suggested I talk to my doctor.”
With help from the
Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, Ronsse has been able to
seek help and make a plan for his treatment.
had injuries and surgeries before. You patch them up and
move on,” said Ronsse. “But when it’s your head or your
psyche, a doctor can’t operate on that. It’s an entirely
different beast to deal with.”
The Air Force Wounded
Warrior Program is a Congressionally-mandated,
federally-funded program that provides personalized care,
services and advocacy to seriously wounded, ill or
recovering service members and their families.
goal here is to help our Airmen improve or maintain their
quality of life,” said Johnson. “With our help, service
members and their caregivers are able to set goals for their
recovery and identify areas where they will need further
Johnson also encourages Airmen who
think they may have PTSD to speak out and to seek help.
“Living with PTSD is a challenge that I’ll need to
overcome,” said Ronsse. “I’ve realized that the things I’ve
been through and seen are not normal. But there is a way
ahead and now I have the tools to do it.”
By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman
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