Five Eielson airmen awarded bronze stars

Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009

The awards were presented as part of a homecoming ceremony Friday for members of the 354th Fighter Wing.

The Bronze Star can be awarded for acts of heroism or for distinguished service. Technical Sgt. Heath Tempel, an explosive ordinance disposal specialist, received the medal for safely dismantling several insurgent bombs in February near the Iraqi city of Sulayman Bak.

Tempel was originally called to the area to remove a bomb from a Shia shrine that had not detonated. He was able to complete the mission without damaging the holy site.

However, insurgents placed several bombs in the way of his convoy on the way back to base. The vehicle in front of him hit the first roadside bomb, only to discover a second just 100 meters away, blocking the route back to the base.

"After maneuvering the vehicles around like chess pieces, I disabled the device that was blocking our escape," he said.

That wasn't the end of it. Insurgents set up another 20 pounds of explosives nearby. Still, he was able to clear yet another safe path for travel.

Other airmen recognized Friday were: Col. Mark Moore, Capt. Katarzyna Johnson, Master Sgt. John Fife and Master Sgt. Albert Schneider.

Schneider was awarded the Bronze Star, his second, for identifying a key piece of evidence at the site of a bombing near Kirkuk in May. The evidence linked the attack to an insurgent group in the north that was quickly eliminated by special forces, ending suicide attacks in the area.

Schneider said he's come a long way since joining the Air Force 19 years ago. As a self-described "troubled youth," he originally only intended to serve for four years.

"But something happened after I was introduced to explosive ordinance disposal and I got caught between the brotherhood and the job and adrenaline rush," he said. "I wouldn't rather do anything else."

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