A Washougal man who said he initially joined the Air Force to simply “have something to do right out of high school,” 10 years later is being honored for his acts of heroism during combat.
On Wednesday, Staff Sgt. David Albright will officially receive the Bronze Star Medal With Valor at the Portland Air National Guard base during a ceremony led by Air Force Special Operations Command Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel.
“It’s awesome,” Albright said of being selected for the award. “It’s a great honor. Just receiving recognition for the great things we do really means a lot.”
Albright, 28, is a combat controller in the USAF 125th Special Tactics Squadron. Originally from Michigan, he spent 5.5 years on active duty, and then 4.5 years ago joined the Air National Guard. He recently completed his second six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The Bronze Star Medal, the fourth-highest combat decoration, is being presented to Albright specifically based on heroism he demonstrated in June 2012. What he went through during that combat mission is nothing short of incredible.
According to the award citation, Albright was ambushed by 20 insurgents as he searched for an anti-aircraft weapon near Dargay Ghal, Chamkani District, Paktiya Province.
“Insurgents rained heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, medium machine gun, and small arms fire down on their vehicles as they entered a narrow alleyway,” the citation states. “[Albright] immediately returned fire with his heavy machine gun from his exposed position and requested close air support.”
Through it all, Albright was able to communicate with the support aircraft and help coordinate several successful attacks, in addition to accurately firing his own machine gun against the insurgents. Two enemy fighters were killed and one was wounded. No U.S. military were killed in the incident.
“Sgt. Albright’s initiative, calm under extreme circumstances and superb control of close air support were critical to zero coalition casualties and prevented his convoy from being overwhelmed by a numerically superior enemy force,” the citation reads. “By his heroic actions and unselfish dedication to duty, Sgt. Albright has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”
Albright said in those tense moments, his military training kicked in and he was running on adrenaline.
“There is a lot of calculating, problem solving and general coordination,” he said. “It keeps you busy and it’s hard to even think about being terrified or scared.”
During tomorrow’s event, a total of six airmen of the 125th Special Tactics Squadron will receive the Bronze Star and one will be presented with a Purple Heart. All are related to duties conducted in Afghanistan.
"Their actions in the battle field have increased regional security, saved countless lives and provided opportunity for village, district and provincial growth of the Afghanistan government,” said Brig. Gen. Steven D. Gregg, commander of the Oregon Air National Guard.
Albright returned from his most recent tour in September 2012 and about a month later he and wife Polly, who also previously served in the Air Force, welcomed their first child — a son named Ruger. The couple, who have lived in Washougal for two years, opened CrossFit North Pacific on Evergreen Way in June 2012.
Jan Bobseine, who is coached by Albright at the Washougal facility, is likely one of many of his clients impressed with his military service and achievements.
“I am proud to know Dave, and inspired to hear the story of our real-world local hero,” she said.
Although he isn’t sure exactly when, Albright said he will be returning to Afghanistan for a third tour of duty.