JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
During a three-day visit to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III honored the heroic actions of a 902nd Security Forces Squadron Airman by presenting him the Airman's Medal Sept. 12 at the Fleenor Auditorium.
The ceremony took place during an All Call with Airmen from Air Force Recruiting Service, the 502nd Air Base Wing and the 12th Flying Training Wing.
To an audience of more than 900 people, Welsh opened his speech with a question: "Have you saved a life lately?"
"This is about somebody choosing to put himself in danger to save a life," Welsh said. "This is a huge award."
According to the medal citation, on Nov. 21, 2012, Staff Sgt. Edward Grant "distinguished himself by heroism involving voluntary risk of life at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. While returning to work from the dining facility, Sergeant Grant heard an explosion and noticed smoke and fire at the entrance of a nearby compound.
"After attempting to call for first responders, he entered the compound, where a storage fuel tank had exploded dispersing fuel under a parked water truck, and began to evacuate personnel."
During the evacuation, Grant discovered a group of foreign nationals who were stranded along an internal fence line because fire was blocking their exit point.
Grant, worked with four other members to pry open the fence in an attempt to create an opening for the personnel to escape. After several attempts in cutting the wire mesh to ensure the civilians escaped safely, Grant entered the fenced area, where smoke, fire and other explosions permeated. He located more trapped civilians, including the compound manager, and led them to safety. Altogether, Grant and his team liberated 35 people.
"I don't feel like I did anything extraordinary," Grant said. "I was just being human. I saw people who needed help."
Grant said it was a "huge honor" to meet and be presented the Airman's Medal by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
Established in 1960, the Airman's Medal is given to service members or those of a friendly nation while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Air Force distinguishing themselves with heroic actions, usually at the voluntary risk of their lives, but without involving combat.
After Grant received his medal, Welsh then pinned on his technical sergeant stripes.
"I had no surprise at all," Maj. Gregory Bodenstein, 902nd SFS commander, said. "Sergeant Grant is an amazing defender who approaches work daily with tenacity. It's a true honor to serve beside someone as Sergeant Grant."
Col. Christine Erlewine, 902nd Mission Support Group commander, explained why Grant's rescue was successful.
"He reacted the way his training taught him to ... and was able to save lives," she said. "The Airman's Medal is something not given out very frequently. (Grant) leads the way among security forces members."
Grant has received other Air Force medals, to include the Air Force Achievement Medal for crowd-control duties and quickly responding to a medical emergency during the 2011 JBSA-Randolph Airshow.
In 2012, he was awarded an Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious service in various assignments including swift response to major vehicular accidents, orchestrating the capture of an armed suspect and garnering a confession in a marijuana case.
Welsh concluded the commander's call by answering questions from the audience on Air Force issues.
He encouraged audience members to offer ideas to supervisors and commanders on improving Air Force processes, and to connect with other Airmen by getting to know them on a personal level.
A goal of the Air Force, Welsh said, is to "look at itself in the mirror" and become more efficient with limited resources.
Welsh, along with his wife, Betty, met with leaders and family members from the Air Force Personnel Center, Air Education and Training Command, 502nd Air Base Wing and 12th Flying Training Wing during their trip to San Antonio.