Staff Sgt. Todd King, prior to being injured by a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Oct. 14, 2004. Sergeant King became the first Office of Special Investigations Agent medically retired due to combat-related injuries suffered in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Courtesy photo)
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas —
A 28-year-old Air Force staff sergeant who dreamed of serving his country throughout his adult life has instead become the first Office of Special Investigations agent to be medically retired due to combat-related injuries suffered during Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to an AFOSI historian.
Todd King of Belton joined the Air Force straight out of high school and fully intended to make the military his career. However, a suicide bomber destroyed those plans Oct. 14, 2004, when Sergeant King and two fellow OSI agents where injured while sitting at the Green Zone Cafe in Baghdad.
Four American and six Iraqi personnel were killed in the attack and many more injured. Sergeant King, from AFOSI Detachment 352, Antiterrorism Specialty Team, arrived in Baghdad two months before the incident.
The explosion sent Sergeant King, who was less than 10 feet away from the suicide bomber, sailing out of the structure and into the parking lot.
"I felt like I was floating, like you jump on a trampoline," said Sergeant King. "It felt like being 10 feet from an F-15 jet taking off."
Sergeant King, who received a Purple Heart, suffered first degree burns, loss of sight in the right eye and a ruptured ear-drum. He has undergone numerous operations and continues to recover from the ordeal.
"Todd is a good guy. He has a lot of courage," said OSI Special Agent Chris Birch. "He loves serving his country but unfortunately his body has quit and he has to be medically retired."
Sergeant King was medically retired during a ceremony Monday at the Air Force Security Forces Center headquarters' building at Kelly Field Annex.
"This is not a regular retirement," said Brig. Gen. Dana Simmons, AFOSI commander, who officially retired Sergeant King. "It's special because a warrior among our midst is leaving our rank today not by his own choice. He is leaving our ranks today because he went in contact with the enemy and was wounded."
General Simmons praised Sergeant King for his commitment and valor and said the retiring OSI agent has become an inspiration to all. Noting that the OSI was established in 1948, General Simmons said that until recently OSI agents have escaped serious injuries. Today, he said, at least 20 agents have been wounded while performing their duties.
"This young man survived a brutal attack. He has never complained he has always looked forward," said the general.
Sergeant King thanked his wife, mother, colleagues and other family members and friends for their support. And he vowed to try to return to the Air Force as a civilian employee.
"I have been working with the command," said Sergeant King. "Hopefully I can come back, not as an OSI agent but intel (intelligence) support of some type."
Currently 45 people are assigned to the Antiterrorism Specialty Team located at Lackland which deploys frequently at a moment's notice to provide counter intelligence information and investigative service to Air Force personnel and units worldwide.
"Our guys are out there collecting information," said Senior Master Sgt. Tim Manning, Antiterrorism Specialty Team superintendent. "They are out there in the front lines, putting their lives on the line every day."