21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — It was 7 a.m. June 30, 2010, and Staff Sgt. Archie Garcia, 21st Security Forces Squadron, heard a boom and then a siren on his forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan.
Thinking that the U.S. military personnel were sleeping, an estimated 30 to 50 Afghanistan insurgents attacked the base with a car bomb at one of the base observation towers. The insurgent assault team was armed with rocket propelled grenades, suicide vests and small arms weapons.
“As soon as the IED hit, all of these Taliban guys were trying to get on base, trying to breach the perimeter,” Sergeant Garcia said.
Everyone on the small forward operating base is part of the Quick Response Force. Sergeant Garcia and Master Sgt. Lee Stevenson, also a member of the 21st SFS, were the first to arrive at the base perimeter wall after the explosion.
Sergeants Garcia and Stevenson, along with two Army military police officers, took an estimated 200 rounds of fire. They could see the bullets hitting the wall and hear them flying overhead and they spotted insurgents in the tree line, firing AK-47 assault rifles.
“You could see the rounds bouncing off the barrier right in front of us,” Sergeant Garcia said. “We immediately started engaging them.”
Sergeant Garcia jumped on a Humvee and began returning fire from there. In a two-hour gun fight, the four U.S. military personnel kept the insurgents from entering the base.
When the U.S. helicopters arrived, the remaining insurgents disbursed, said Sergeant Stevenson. U.S. Army Spc. Eric Paxton, who was in the watch tower, was injured during the incident. No Americans were killed and no insurgent made it onto the base.
For his actions, Sergeant Garcia is the Air Force level recipient of the Elizabeth Jacobson Award for Expeditionary Excellence. The award is given to Airmen who demonstrate outstanding performance during deployment and is named for Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson, who was the first female security forces squadron member killed in action in 2005 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was 21-years-old.
Sergeant Garcia, who also was awarded the Combat Action Medal, will officially be presented the award in San Antonio in April.
“He deserves it,” said Sergeant Stevenson, who also received the Combat Action Medal. Sergeant Stevenson nominated Sergeant Garcia for the Jacobson award saying that in addition to the work he did on June 30, 2010, to defend the base, he performed additional duties throughout their deployment.
“Anytime (the base) got hit, we were the first on scene to perform damage and injury assessment,” Sergeant Stevenson said.
“People need to understand and grasp the training they go through,” Sergeant Stevenson said. “That training will be instinctive if you find yourself in a situation like that.”