Isle airman is awarded for thwarting attack in Iraq
STORY SUMMARY »
A Hawaii-based Air Force investigator received the Bronze Star medal for valor yesterday for stopping a would-be suicide car bomber in Iraq.
In ceremonies at Hickam Air Force Base, Gregory Carmack accepted the nation's eighth-highest medal for his actions in Iraq in June 2006, when he opened fire on a pickup truck barreling down on a U.S. military convoy.
Two 130 mm artillery shells were later found in the passenger seat of the pickup.
Carmack and his family moved to Hickam last month.
FULL STORY »
GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Col. John Torres, left, commander of the 15th Airlift Wing, congratulated Air Force Special Agent Gregory Carmack yesterday after he was awarded the Bronze Star medal. Looking on was Carmack's son, Joshua.
It took only 36 seconds for Air Force Special Agent Gregory Carmack to quickly react and save perhaps three dozen lives when a suicide car bomber threatened to blow up a convoy in Iraq last year.
For his actions, Carmack, a 15-year Air Force veteran, was awarded the Bronze Star medal for valor yesterday while his wife, Natalie, son, Joshua, and daughter, Melissa, watched with pride. Until yesterday his two children did not know details of the attack.
Presenting the medal, which is the country's eighth-highest award, was Brig. Gen. Dana Simmons, who commands the 2,533 active duty, reserve and civilians who belong to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Its mission is to identify, exploit and neutralize criminal, terrorist and intelligence threats. It is the second-most requested career field in the Air Force. For the most part, airmen and women assigned to this specialty go to work in civilian clothing.
Carmack, 35, was an Air Force security policeman for 12 years before he became a special agent. His six-month deployment to Iraq last year was the sixth time he had been sent to the region. He and his family moved to Hickam Air Force Base last month.
He told reporters after the awards ceremony that June 14, 2006, "started out like any other day for OSI (Office of Special Investigations) agents going downrange working on counterintelligence, counterinsurgency and counterthreat operations."
Based on information the military had received, Carmack was sent on a mission that day to destroy a cache of weapons. His armored Suburban was leading a convoy of three vehicles.
It was early afternoon when Carmack's convoy of nine Air Force special agents met up with an Army convoy of nine Humvees.
At that point a small white two-door Toyota pickup truck tried to intercept the convoy. The driver ran over an Iraqi policeman.
"Training and instinct took over," Carmack told reporters. "My gut instinct told me what it was. I recognized the threat. I brought my weapon up on line and started engaging the target."
Carmack said he fired 10 rounds. Seven hit the truck, some killing the driver.
"The entire event from start to finish took 36 seconds of our lives."
Later it was discovered that on the passenger side of truck were two 130 mm shells the suicide bomber had hoped to detonate.
Carmack's motto has been "carpe diem" -- seize the day. "We're never guaranteed tomorrow. You do not know what tomorrow may bring. In theater you never know what is going to happen. You can be walking to the dining facility and a rocket lands and that may be it."
Melissa, his wife of 13 years, said, "I look at him and I am very, very proud of him and people like him. ... The Lord needed him where he was. He did what he had to do. The training was awesome."