By Ben Gonzales, Mission and Installation Contracting CommandJune 13, 2017
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- (June 13, 2017) An early morning run to commemorate Veterans Day Nov. 12, 2016, turned into a harrowing ordeal for two Mission and Installation Contracting Command Soldiers while they were deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
Maj. Evan Chung and Sgt. 1st Class Mark Lewis along with a couple of dozen others gathered for an organized 5K run early that morning. Life can change in an instant, and that instant for Chung and Lewis occurred when a member of the Taliban gained entry onto the base and detonated a suicide bomber vest where the crowd had gathered for the run.
Approximately 10 meters away from the bomber when the explosion occurred, Chung and Lewis were blown back by the blast. They both quickly regained their bearing and rushed to triage and provide first aid to their fellow wounded U.S. service members and coalition partners.
"At first I experienced severe ringing in my ears, extreme pressure in my head, and I was very dazed and confused," said Chung who was deployed as the 607th Contracting Team leader. "Eventually I heard yelling and screaming, so I ran toward the source to help the wounded."
Instinctively, training kicks in automatically so you assist others despite the unknown threat, said Chung, a 20-year Army veteran and native of Syracuse, New York. "You don't run for cover when your fellow Soldiers lay wounded or vulnerable. I'm proud to know my training proved valuable in being able to render first aid in an actual mass casualty."
Lewis witnessed the fire and shrapnel from the explosion, and once he regained his senses he hurried to the blast site to also render first aid. After the contracting specialist let medics take over, Lewis then started a full accountability for 607th CT members.
Three American Soldiers and two American contractors were killed in the blast. In addition, 15 Americans and one Polish soldier were wounded from the explosion. The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack.
"I was just happy that I could be of help during such a horrible event," said Lewis, a native of San Jose, California. "My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families."
Once medics had treated those effected by the blast, Chung and Lewis went to the Craig Joint Theater Hospital on Bagram Airfield. They were both diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries. Having returned to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in December, they both continue treatment for TBI at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.
Chung and Lewis received Purple Heart medals in a ceremony June 9 here from Maj. Gen. James Simpson, the Army Contracting Command commanding general, for wounds received in action during the Nov. 12 suicide bombing. The Purple Heart is awarded to American service members who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.
Chung also received the Combat Action Badge from Simpson for being engaged by the enemy during the suicide attack. Lewis earned the badge earlier in his Army 14-year career.
"Major Chung and Sergeant Lewis performed brilliantly in the most dire of moments," said Brig. Gen. Jeff Gabbert, the MICC commanding general. "Our Soldiers stand ready for any event, and these two Soldiers demonstrated true bravery and compassion when it was needed most. Major Chung and Sergeant Lewis are the epitome of today's American Soldier: ready, resilient and respected."
The 607th CT is subordinate to the Field Directorate Office-Fort Sam Houston and MICC. The 607th CT was deployed to Bagram Airfield and attached to the Regional Contracting Center-Afghanistan in support of Expeditionary Contracting Command-Afghanistan. FDO-Fort Sam Houston plans and executes contingency contracting support for designated Army Service Component Commands in support of Army and joint operations worldwide.