FORT BENNING, Ga. – A soldier from the Army's only airborne explosive ordnance disposal company was presented with the nation's second-highest award for valor here Feb. 17.
Staff Sgt. Jeffery M. Dawson, a Coalville, Utah, native, earned the Distinguished Service Cross while deployed to Afghanistan with the 28th EOD Company (Airborne), in support of the U.S. Army's elite 75th Ranger Regiment.
U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn presented the medal to Dawson during a ceremony here. Sergeant Bryan C. Anderson, the Ranger platoon medic on the same mission, also received same award during the ceremony.
Dawson said the Oct. 5, 2013, mission in Afghanistan was supposed to be routine.
"That mission started out the same as every mission. The [improvised explosive device] threat was low and it was supposed to be a quick, easy target," Dawson said. "Upon infiltration, everything changed in minutes."
Near the remote enemy compound, a fleeing insurgent detonated an explosive, killing himself and the team's multi-purpose canine, Jani. Dawson then realized that his team was surrounded by hidden bombs.
"Being the only EOD tech [there], it was up to me to clear medical personnel to the wounded and clear all other personnel to get them to safety," Dawson said.
Helps Others Despite Wounds
Despite being wounded by two separate explosions, Dawson halted the mission, disarmed the IEDs, and aided in the evacuation of dead and wounded soldiers.
Dawson worked in limited visibility for more than two hours. According to the award citation, he located three confirmed pressure-plate bombs and an additional six suspected explosive devices.
"In any situation like that, you always revert back to training and stick with what you know," Dawson said.
Inspired by Fellow Soldiers
He said he remembers being inspired by his fellow soldiers who were traversing the explosive-laden battlefield to recover their fallen and wounded teammates.
"I remember looking around at all the devastation and seeing American flags draped over casualties in an effort to help keep them warm," Dawson said.
Capt. Taylor J. Duren, commander of the 28th EOD Company, said his soldiers conduct rigorous training to stay ready to jump out of airplanes and defuse explosive devices. He said they regularly serve with the 75th Ranger Regiment, the U.S. Army's foremost direct-action raid force.
"[The medal] highlights the relationship we have with the 75th Ranger Regiment, since they are the ones who submitted Dawson's Distinguished Service Cross," Duren said.
The staff sergeant said he was surprised to be put in for the medal, second only to the Medal of Honor.
"When I got back to camp, people were coming up to me and shaking my hand and hugging me telling me that they heard great things about me," Dawson said. "I kept thinking to myself that I was just doing my job.”