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McChord Airman assists after IED blast

455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Published: 12:37PM January 14th, 2016

Four Bagram Airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron sprang into action following a terrorist attack on a compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 4. One of the four Airmen was Airman 1st Class John Michael Aradanas, deployed from the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Reports said one person was killed and more than two dozen others were injured in the blast.

The Airmen were in Kabul as part of U.S. Central Command’s materiel recovery element, inspecting equipment for air transport out of Afghanistan. While eating dinner at an eatery on the military side of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, they heard and felt a blast.

“We were done eating and sitting there then we heard (the blast) and we felt it,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Longshaw, from the Utah Air National Guard at Salt Lake City International Airport. “The building shook, and then Sergeant Huggins came in after that; he was pretty visibly upset.”

Technical Sergeant Chad Huggins, from Dover Air Force Base, Del., was outside talking on the phone when he saw and felt the blast.

“You heard it, and saw the flash and the next thing it was like a movie,” he said. “I got pushed into the wall and my phone went flying.”

About a quarter-mile away, a 15-foot-deep crater sat where the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated.

The team left the restaurant and went back to their temporary billeting, still reeling over what they had just experienced. Then came the call for help.

“One of the civilians came in from (Readiness Management Support) and asked for our help,” Longshaw explained. “So we got up and started to help — did what we could and whatever we were asked to do.”

Staff Sergeant Tobi Wagner, from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., had just fallen asleep in his bunk. “Aradanas grabbed my ankle and said ‘Hey, we need to help those contractors. C’mon, let’s go.’ So I got up, put on some shorts and went to go help. I was still a little out of it so I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I knew I wanted to help.”

The four Airmen all pitched in to help set up the temporary area, where nurses constantly checked on the civilians, mostly contractors, who were injured in the terrorist attack.

“I was just trying to help,” Aradanas said. “It went by quick, just watching all of these people come in and doing what I could to comfort them.”

The Airmen stuck around for the next eight hours, sitting with patients and comforting them; doing whatever was needed of them.

“It brought you back down to reality real quick,” Wagner said. “They came in and were covered in debris and they were hurt. You’d see fresh cuts and blood. Everyone was kind of disheveled because they couldn’t get any of their stuff.”

The team said they set up lodging for the victims of the blast, consisting of about 70 beds, then comforted the victims and assisted the medical staff with anything else that was needed.

“I figure that the guys getting hurt are the ones kicking in doors or doing convoys and stuff like that,” Longshaw said. “I didn’t really think about our contractors getting blown up on the civilian side of an airport. I didn’t expect that to happen.”

For Huggins, serving on his seventh deployment, he figured incidents like this happened to other people; not to him.

“I’ve been deployed a lot,” he said. “You know the dangers and reality, but you don’t expect to be put in that situation. ‘Oh, that ain’t going to happen to me.’ Now that it has, it’s a reality check. You look at things differently.”