From the Frontline: Staff Sgt. Charles Holley

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo., -- Brig. Gen. Robert Wheeler, 509th Bomb Wing commander, presents the Bronze Star Medal to Staff Sgt. Charles Holley, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, here Nov. 25. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Jessica Mae Snow)(Released)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Brig. Gen. Robert Wheeler, 509th Bomb Wing commander, presents the Bronze Star Medal to Staff Sgt. Charles Holley, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Nov. 25. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jessica Mae Snow)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Editor's note: "From the Frontline" is a weekly column highlighting currently deployed Team Whiteman members, or those who have recently returned from deployment. This week's deployed member is Staff Sgt. Charles Holley.

America has been at war for eight years now, and the Airmen of Whiteman Air Force Base have been heavily involved, both in-garrison, and from deployed locations. Many stories of heroism and valor have come back from the war front, as ordinary Airmen do extraordinary things in the line of duty.

Staff Sgt. Charles Holley, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, received a Bronze Star with Valor Nov. 25, for his heroic actions while on a convoy in Tiqurit, Iraq last year. 

Sergeant Holley was manning the .50-caliber gun atop the lead HMMWV in a convoy, when an improvised explosive device bathed the vehicle in fire.

"I don't remember seeing a flash, or hearing a boom," said Sergeant Holley. "I just remember waking up in the turret with my head on fire, and realizing the vehicle was rolling off the road."

The vehicle rolled to a stop, just off the road.

"It took me a second to realize what had happened," Sergeant Holley said. "I took my helmet off, because it was on fire, and I looked down the turret. It was all full of flames and all I could see was orange."

Sergeant Holley then climbed out of the turret, and realized that his legs were on fire.

"So I went back to what we are all taught in grade school and did the stop, drop, and roll," Sergeant Holley said. "That got the fire out."

Sergeant Holley then tried to rescue the driver and the convoy commander, who were trapped in the burning vehicle.

"I tried to get the doors opened, but the combat locks were locked," he said. "So I tried to reach down through the turret, and get them out, but to no avail. They were already gone, and I knew it, but I didn't want them to go home as charred remains. I tried to cut the seatbelts off and pull them through the turret, but the fire was burning my hands."

By then, the rest of the convoy had caught up, and was taking small arms fire from a hut across the road. Sergeant Holley refused medical treatment and helped return fire until the quick reaction force arrived. An Army tank made short work of the hut, eliminating the enemy fire.

Sergeant Holley had second-degree burns on his hands and face, and an aching knee.

"Later, when we got to the hospital, they discovered that I had taken some shrapnel to the leg," said Sergeant Holley. "Fortunately, it missed the bone."

Sergeant Holley spent a month in Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, as military doctors treated his burns. He has made a full recovery, and has even completed another deployment since the incident.

"This is an awesome story," said Brig. Gen. Robert Wheeler, 509th Bomb Wing commander, after pinning the Bronze Star with Valor upon the sergeant's chest. "We are fighting all over the world, deploying people all over the world, and we don't often get to hear stories like this, of our Airmen going beyond the call of duty."

As Whiteman continues to send Airmen to answer their nation's call, words of advice go with them, encouraging and preparing them for the adverse conditions they may face.

"Pay attention to training, and once you get over there, pay attention to your instincts," said Sergeant Holley. "It hasn't let me down yet."