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McChord EOD tech makes award a team feat

by Jake Chappelle
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

10/20/2014 - MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- Anyone who can remember the early '80s might recall critics blasting Michael Jordan for treating basketball as it were a one-man sport in his early NBA years. However, he'd earned a few most-valuable-player awards, and a handful championship rings during the latter part of his career.

Downloading an image of "His Airness" mocking gravity can be as easy as discovering water in the Puget Sound, but the hall of famer prized his teammates when it came to winning.

Oct. 5, Master Sgt. Shawn Lundgren, an explosive ordnance disposal technician from the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron here, was presented with the Bronze Star Medal for his actions in Kandahar, Afghanistan, October 2013 to May 2014. Like the manner Jordan valued his teammates, the nine-year Airman said being attached to the hip with his fellow technicians is critical - especially while downrange.

"Trust is everything," Lundgren said. "We put our lives in each other's hands. My mindset was to support the mission and protect our troops. While that's a huge responsibility, it's our job.

The just-doing-my-job attitude keeps them grounded - just ask their leadership.

"It's not about the accolades or recognition," said Maj. George LaFrazia, 446th CES commander. "It's about doing a job right the first time because there won't be a second."

Lundgren's superintendent, and fellow Bronze Star recipient, Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Sursely, understands, and lives, the humble and teamwork elements firsthand.

"To take a Reservist and put him into a combat zone with active-duty counterparts is an awesome task," said Sursely, a full-time patrol sergeant with the Moses Lake Police Department, Moses Lake, Washington. "Lundgren not only performed flawlessly in this role, but returned with his experiences to make everyone else better. As our force ages, people like Lundrgen will train the next generation, passing on that drive and experience," he added.

Lundgren recognizes the basketball analogy when it comes to hard work and learning from his teammates. Whether in a training atmosphere or downrange, he said the experiences are both humbling and rewarding.

"It's like sports," said the ordnance technician with Western Solutions in Vancouver, Washington. "You train, and train, and train. You make sacrifices at home, and (at) work. Going downrange and finally doing what we train for is like playing in the 'big game.' You test yourself to see what you're capable of. You want to learn as much as you can, so you can prepare the next generation of techs."

When Sursely recalled his experience of receiving the Bronze Star, he said the moment was awkward, as earning the medal wasn't his purpose for going on his deployment. It was to stay ahead of their adversary and pass knowledge to the Airmen who replaced him, so they could go home alive and whole.

"The decoration recognizes one for the contributions of the many," Sursely said. "When I stood up to receive my decoration it wasn't a proud moment, but one of reflection on the hard work of the people who made my success possible."

Lundgren's experience receiving the honor falls in line with the Chief's.

"EOD works as a team," said the husband, and father of three. "I don't believe this is an individual accomplishment. This award is recognition (that) our team performed exceptional."

EOD specialists from the 446th AW have been notable in their performances throughout recent campaigns going back to 9/11, LaFrazia said. While the conflicts have taken both physical and mental tolls on these Citizen Airmen, they still strive to serve.

"When you read the citations for all the decorations they've received, you begin to understand the scope of their commitment," he added.

"Nobody wants to just go to practice," Lundgren said. "They want to play, and make a difference. I was able to take what I learned from my peers and mentors, and put it to work."

He put it to work. And like Jordan, he put up some notable numbers as well. In just under 2,400 hours outside the wire, Lundgren:

· directed the safe resolution of more than 30 combat missions within a critical staging area for Taliban attacks against Kandahar City,
· provided tactical expertise to clear and hold an historic Taliban safe haven,
· secured critical intelligence to identify enemy tactics and procedures,
· cleared numerous Afghan soldiers from the blast site of an 80-pound explosive device, and isolated the area against secondary devices,
· helped secure an unmanned-aerial vehicle which crashed in a hostile area,
· assessed and cleared the area of explosive and environmental hazards, ensuring supported forces were protected, and preventing an $850,000-drone from injuring civilians and keeping it from enemy hands,
· optimized his team's resources while coordinating the return of nearly $4 million in extra assets, and
· built a proving ground, which enabled his unit to survive and operate in a battlespace saturated with improvised explosive devices.