AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Jan.
8, 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.
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. Something wasn’t right.
“We were done eating and sitting there then we heard (the blast) and we felt
it,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Longshaw, deployed 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.”
Tech. Sgt. Chad Huggins, a St. Clairsville, Ohio, native deployed from Dover
Air Force Base, Del., was outside talking on the phone when he saw and felt the
“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. I don’t even know
how to explain it.”
Huggins said he picked up his phone and ran back into the restaurant to find
his comrades. About a quarter-mile away, a 15-foot-deep crater sat where the
vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated.
“I was staring at these guys,” Huggins said about the situation, “and they were
staring back. Then they started speaking and I couldn’t understand them; my
ears were ringing. They asked, ‘Are you okay,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, we need to
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 Sgt. Tobi Wagner, a Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, native deployed from
Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., had just lied down 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.”
Airman 1st Class John Michael Aradanas, an Anchorage, Alaska native deployed
from McChord Air Force Base in Washington, is here serving on his first
deployment. He said his adrenaline was “through the roof” at that moment.
“I was just trying to help,” he said. “It went by quick, just watching all of
these people come in and doing what I could to comfort them.”
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. Then they 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 commented how one man was knocked from his bed when the blast occurred
near his living quarters. He walked his hallway in bare feet on broken glass
until someone was able to find him some boots for him to wear. Another man was
saved by a treadmill, where it created a pocket in the rubble under which he
was buried for three hours until a crane was brought in to sift through the
While scenes like this aren’t necessarily the norm for most Airmen deployed to
Afghanistan, it’s something which the Airmen felt prepared to support.
“When I was here two years ago they (terrorists) were much more active,” said
Wagner, on his second deployment. “It felt as if we were getting attacked
constantly. So I was expecting a little bit of the same. Then I got (to Bagram)
and there wasn’t much of anything.”
That was the case for them until Monday, when the attack occurred and their
reflexes and training kicked in.
“It’s human instinct that if you see someone worse off than you, that you’re
going to help them,” Huggins said. “But the Air Force did help with the
training to understand how to deal with it and what to do in certain
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 think we did everything that we could’ve possibly done,” Wagner said. “You
sit and you listen; which is really what we did. I think that helped a lot of
Although the attack, which claimed one life and injured more than two dozen
others, occurred just a few days ago, each of the Airmen has had a chance to
reflect on the incident.
“I figure that the guys getting hurt are the ones kicking in doors or doing
convoys and stuff like that,” said Longshaw, who’s deployed previously with the
Air National Guard as well as the Marine Corps. “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.”