94th Airman receives two Army commendations serving In Iraq
By Master Sgt. Ellen Hatfield Wilt, Public Affairs
/ Published February 24, 2006
DOBBINS ARB, Ga. -- Before he deployed to Iraq last March to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, Senior Airman Bert Alcon said the hardest thing he ever had to do was sit down and write four letters: to his father, his mother, his five-year-old son, Cullen and his four-year-old daughter, Calee. They were only to be opened and read if he didn’t come back.
But this Air Force Reservist assigned to the 94th Logistics Readiness Squadron did come back -- with two Army Commendation Medals – and the willingness to return for another tour of duty.
The 28-year-old native of Kernersville, N.C., joined the Air Force Reserve in May 2003. Without hesitation he volunteered to be attached to the U.S. Army and man a 50-caliber gun on an armored vehicle. He was also trained to be a Combat Life Saver, meaning he could administer intravenous infusions, insert an IV and set broken bones.
He was also armed with an M-4 carbine and a 9 millimeter pistol. Along with Air Force Special Operations, he was one of few Air Force personnel allowed to carry his weapons at all times. “We provided security for anyone who needed it,” he said.
Even when sent to Landstuhl Air Base, Germany, for surgery, he took his weapon with him – and returned to the front, in spite of the protests of his surgeon that he should have desk duty.
He traveled all over Iraq in his security capacity, from the Syrian and Turkish border down to Kuwait. He was on the road anywhere from 10 to 90 days at a time, escorting military, third country nationals and more.
He received his first Army Commendation Medal for “serving with the Army, having no accidental discharges and serving well,” said Alcon. The second one he was awarded he worked a little harder to get.
His unit had just returned to Camp Spiker, Iraq, from 40 days on the Syrian border. Just two hours in, without time for a hot meal or change of clothing, they were on their way again, this time, through Tikrit, Iraq. Alcon was on the first truck in a convoy of 15 vehicles, and as they passed an Iraqi police station, a bomb was detonated by the third gun truck. Luckily, it only took shrapnel hits.
After rolling through an Iraqi National Guard checkpoint, another bomb detonated, disabling a Kellogg, Brown and Root truck. They couldn’t leave a military asset behind. As Alcon put it, “The Iraqis are very quick. I’ve seen them take the tires off a burning vehicle.” Although they had no tools to repair the truck, they had a vehicle recovery technician with them. He had to get under the truck to repair it, and Alcon had to provide security for the unarmed man in a sweep of 360 degrees.
The Quick Recovery Force needed several hours to reach them, and in the meantime, the Iraqi National Guard was letting other people and vehicles through their checkpoint. Alcon had to provide security from these people as well, as they were not other American forces. “A four-hour mission became 36 hours on the road,” he said.
Alcon said he didn’t have time to be afraid, with improvised explosive devices and bombs going off constantly. “You just have to get used to it being part of your every day life while you’re over there.”
He got so used to it, nine times out of 10, he volunteered to ride in the lead truck, manning his 50-caliber gun, providing security and always ready to use his combat life saving skills. He is very proud of his skill with inserting an IV.
He would like to make the Air Force his life and hopefully become a drill instructor for basic trainees he said, “If I can do the same mission I just completed, I’ll go to Iraq again.”