USAF airman injured in IED explosion receives Purple Heart

US Air Force Staff Sgt Cody Allen, 321st Special Tactics Squadron combat controller, shakes the hand

US Air Force Staff Sgt Cody Allen, 321st Special Tactics Squadron combat controller, shakes the hand of US Air Force Maj Gen Gregory Lengyel, Commander of Special Operations Command Europe, after receiving a Purple Heart March 1, 2016, at RAF Mildenhall. Allen received the medal for wounds he received in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Halan/Released) - Credit: Archant

A USAF airman who shrugged off his own injuries to help fellow troops after their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan has had his heroic efforts recognised.

(L-R) US Air Force Capt Andrew Owens, 321st Special Tactics Squadron special tactics officer, Staff

(L-R) US Air Force Capt Andrew Owens, 321st Special Tactics Squadron special tactics officer, Staff Sgt James Neely, Staff Sgt Ryan Holmes, and Staff Sgt Cody Allen, all 321st STS combat controllers, stand at attention during a ceremony, March 1, 2016, at RAF Mildenhall. Holmes and Owens received a Bronze Star for meritorious service during combat operations in Afghanistan, Neely received a Bronze Star for meritorious service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Allen received a Purple Heart for wounds received in action in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Halan/Released) - Credit: Archant

Staff Sgt Cody Allen was among four 321st Special Tactics Squadron Air Commandos who were presented with medals during a ceremony at RAF Mildenhall on March 1.

Staff Sgt Allen received a Purple Heart medal for wounds he received in action in October last year, during his third deployment since being stationed with the USAF at RAF Mildenhall.

He was driving with four others through Afghanistan to help a unit that was taking fire when their truck, the last in a convoy, was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).

Staff Sgt Allen said: 'We suddenly heard a whistle, and that was the initiation of the IED. It went off and it was just a dust cloud.'

He and his friend, both backseat passengers, were thrown into the air by the impact. His friend sustained a concussion and Staff Sgt Allen fractured two metatarsals and dislocated part of his foot, but still rushed to check on his fellow passengers.

'When we got thrown up in the air, that's when my training kicked in,' he said. 'At first you're in shock, as you're like, 'Oh my gosh, we just hit an IED!' and you don't know whether you're severely injured or not.

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'Once I found out I was good and I could still function, then I looked at my buddy to make sure he was OK as well. That's when we started to return fire.'

With his foot injured and bleeding, Staff Sgt Allen set up a machine gun with a friend and they started returning fire, while the other trucks in their convoy supported them with heavy weapons and air support was called in.

After pushing back the insurgents, the concussed airman was evacuated by helicopter. Staff Sgt Allen and the others pieced their truck back together before heading back to their base, arriving roughly six hours after the explosion hit.

Once they had returned, Staff Sgt Allen was taken back to England were he underwent surgery on his damaged foot.

He said: 'I wanted to stay there with my friends and continue to finish off my deployment, but I knew that I wasn't going to be capable of operating at 100pc for what they needed.'

Following his foot surgery, Staff Sgt Allen took time to recuperate back with his family in America.

Despite his injuries, he said he can't wait to get back out on another deployment and do the job he loves.

'I think we all accept the risks, we all know what we signed up for and I think every one of these guys would have done the same thing that I did,' he said.

'The main part for me is knowing I'm going downrange helping not only the mission, but helping my friends on the teams I'm attached to.'

When receiving his medal Staff Sgt Allen was joined by fellow Staff Sgts Ryan Holmes and James Neely, 321st STS combat controllers, who received Bronze Stars for meritorous service – Staff Sgt Holmes during combat operations in Afghanistan, and Staff Sgt Neely in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Capt Andrew Owens, 321st STS special tactics officer, also received a Bronze Star for meritorious service during combat operations in Afghanistan.

The medals were presented by Major General Gregory Lengyel, Commander of Special Operations Command Europe.

Col Nathan Green, 752nd Special Operations Group commander, said: 'Our folks regularly put themselves in harm's way in the name of their country and ask nothing in return.

'Spending the time to see them recognised is something I consider an honour. Knowing what these airmen have been through and what they have achieved, I can truly say I am proud to serve next to them.'

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