MINOT AIR FORCE BASE During a recent deployment to Afghanistan, Tech. Sgt. Shawn Owens, operational medicine flight chief with the 5th Medical Operations Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, went above the call of duty to defend himself and his platoon under close enemy fire, earning him combat military decorations.
Owens was attached to the 2nd Platoon, 2668th Transportation Company, as a medic from July 26 to Sept. 26, 2012.
While enroute on Aug. 2, a rocket-propelled grenade flew over the trail vehicle Owen was in, landing 9 feet away, crushing the wall beside him.
"Immediately after the blast, I had a massive headache, nausea, ringing in my ears and was disoriented," Owens stated. "Through the disorientation, I medically assessed everyone in the vehicle and treated them."
The following day the platoon came under attack again and Owens suffered two more blows to his head from rocket-propelled grenade impacts. One rocket-propelled grenade blew Owens forward, causing fragments to miss him by inches.
On Aug. 4, the platoon was ambushed yet again and Owens suffered another daze from a rocket-propelled grenade impact. Despite his constant head trauma, Owens engaged the insurgents in a firefight.
He used his M4 weapon to protect his platoon; all while continuing his mission as a medic, treating and medically evacuating the wounded.
"I didn't medevac myself. I didn't want to leave [the platoon] without a medic," Owens said. "I'm glad I didn't because there are a lot of injuries that could have led to people potentially dying. I didn't want them to lose that asset. I wanted to stay there and deal with my injury and continue on."
When the deployment ended, Owens was evacuated to seek treatment for the injuries he sustained. He was sent to Kandahar, Afghanistan, for further evaluation of the five head injuries he had sustained during the attacks.
Col. James Dawkins Jr., 5th Bomb Wing commander, who recently departed Minot AFB, presented the Air Force Combat Action Medal to Owens for identifying and engaging the enemy to defend himself and his platoon for six days and five nights.
The commander also presented him with the Purple Heart for the injuries he sustained during his Operation Enduring Freedom deployment.
"It feels so surreal. I never thought I'd be in a position like this as a medic," Owens said. "A lot of times as medics, we get deployments where we are in the comforts of a hospital. So to receive something like this makes me feel proud."
"At the same time, I know with the Purple Heart, a lot of people are missing limbs and I am not missing anything," added Owens. "I've recovered from my injuries, so it makes me feel like I shouldn't have it, but I am still grateful."