FORT BENNING, Georgia (Feb. 17, 2015) -- An American Soldier from the U.S. Army's only airborne Explosive Ordnance Disposal, or EOD, Company was presented with the nation's second highest award for valor here, Feb. 17.
Staff Sgt. Jeffery M. Dawson 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 in Marshall Auditorium. Sgt. Bryan C. Anderson, the Ranger Platoon medic on the same mission, also received the Distinguished Service Cross during the ceremony.
Dawson said the mission in Afghanistan, Oct. 5, 2013, was supposed to be routine.
"That mission started out the same as every mission. The IED [Improvised Explosive Device] threat was low and it was supposed to be a quick easy target," Dawson said. "Upon infiltration everything changed in minutes."
During the mission at a remote enemy compound, a fleeing insurgent donated an explosive, killing himself and the team's multi-purpose canine, Jani.
Dawson then realized that his team was surrounded by IEDs.
"Being the only EOD tech on the objective, it was up to me to clear medical personnel to the wounded and clear to all other personnel to get them to safety," Dawson said.
Despite being wounded by two separate explosions, Dawson halted the mission, disarmed the improvised explosive devices and aided in the evacuation of dead and wounded Soldiers.
Navigating the chaotic situation in limited visibility for more than two hours, Dawson exposed himself to grave danger while locating three confirmed pressure plate IEDs and an additional six suspected devices, the award citation stated.
"In any situation like that, you always revert back to training and stick with what you know," said Dawson, a Coalville, Utah native, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dawson said he was inspired by the dedication of his fellow Soldiers who braved the explosive-ridden 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.
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."
The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based 28th EOD Company (Airborne) is part of the 192nd EOD Battalion, 52nd EOD Group, 20th CBRNE Command (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives), the only Department of Defense formation that combats global CBRNE threats.
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. Duren said his Soldiers regularly serve with the 75th Ranger Regiment, the U.S. Army's premier direct-action raid force.
"(The medal) highlights the relationship we have with the 75th Ranger Regiment since they are the ones who submitted (Staff Sergeant) Dawson's Distinguished Service Cross," Duren said.
Duren said the medal demonstrates the high caliber of the Soldiers serving in his one-of-a-kind company.
"What makes us truly unique is the level of professionalism each Soldier depicts in this company," said Duren, a native of Columbia, South Carolina, who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This award pays tribute to the level of training we put into the Soldiers hand selected to serve in this company and their dedication to mission success," Duren said.