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Heritage of Freedom showcases courage
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Lt. Col. Timothy “Goose” Gosnell, commander of the 421st Fighter Squadron during their historic Bagram deployment, speaks to a packed ballroom at the Minuteman Club on Feb. 22. As part of the Heritage of Freedom event, Colonel Gosnell and Lt. Col. Chris Echols, 66th Security Forces Squadron commander, spoke about harrowing events in Afghanistan last year where Airmen showed courage under duress. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)
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Heritage of Freedom showcases courage

Posted 2/24/2011   Updated 2/24/2011 Email story   Print story


by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

2/24/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- At the Heritage of Freedom event on Feb. 22, two lieutenant colonels told a packed ballroom in the Minuteman Club about harrowing events in Afghanistan last year where Airmen showed courage under duress.

Lt. Col. Chris Echols, commander of the 66th Security Forces Squadron here, spoke on how members of his squadron fought back an attack on Bagram Air Base. Lt. Col. Timothy "Goose" Gosnell, who was the commander of the 421st Fighter Squadron during their historic Bagram deployment, spoke of challenges and successes.

Both men emphasized the importance of being prepared and working collaboratively with other groups.

Colonel Echols described how 13 members of his squadron were in Afghanistan as part of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron providing support to Bagram Air Base when it came under attack. Insurgents staged a complex attack with small arms fire, grenades and mortars on May 19, 2010.

"This was the largest single ground attack on an air base since Vietnam," he said.

The fighting lasted for more than 20 hours and the members of 455th were instrumental in fighting back the attack. When the insurgents who were killed were searched, all had suicide vests, grenades and small arms.

The 66th SFS personnel who helped fight the enemy during this attack received many commendations and medals.

"This is a proud moment when the guys come back like this," said Colonel Echols. He did admit to being "scared as hell" when he heard about some of his forces being cut off and ending up in the crossfire.

"Although this was the first time I can recall being this close [to losing someone], as commanders we make sure our people have the training and equipment needed," he said.

When it was Colonel Gosnell's turn to speak, he emphasized how important exercises are as part of preparation. The 421st flew the first F-16 combat missions from Afghanistan.

"During Exercise Green Flag East, the fliers and maintainers were working together," he said. This would become very important as these maintainers became the ones supporting the 421st.

As part of another exercise, Colonel Gosnell mentioned how they practiced "guns to ground," saying it is one of the toughest things to do, but was a "game changer" in Afghanistan.

He talked about how many personnel had been to Iraq and knew the set up and terrain, but said there is a "world of difference," between Iraq and Afghanistan.

"In Iraq we dropped very few bombs," he said. "In Afghanistan, everyone dropped at least once and we shot more than 3,000 rounds from the 20 millimeters."

Colonel Gosnell described two situations where he had to go in to provide close air support and had new personnel with him.

"It went from absolute calm to utter panic; they [personnel on the ground] were screaming 'drop a bomb now'," he said. "I had never heard anything like that before."

However, in both instances, the fliers kept their cool and were able to provide the support necessary, whether by performing a show of force, working to get the correct coordinates to drop a bomb or strafing.

"Having the correct training, working with the maintainers and participating in the exercises made a difference," Colonel Gosnell said. "It gave you an opportunity to see the mission before you got out there. And you never know, it could be you - you could be that hero out there."

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