HURLBURT FIELD, FL – Walking on the same feet that were shattered in an improvised explosive device attack less than a year ago, an Airman from Air Force Special Operations Command marched to the front of the base theater, executed a facing movement and stood at attention to receive the Bronze Star Medal June 26, 2012 at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
With his mother and father (two retired Air Force Airmen), various family, friends, and teammates in attendance, Staff Sgt. Johnnie Yellock Jr., a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron here and a recent Purple Heart recipient, was presented the Bronze Star Medal for accomplishments during his 2011 deployment to Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During Yellock’s deployment, he executed six missions as a joint terminal attack controller, attached to an Army Special Forces team. Specifically, his duties centered on controlling unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to reduce IED emplacements along routes of travel. This ensured Coalition freedom of movement, according to his Bronze Star Medal citation.
The task Yellock accomplished while deployed were significant and trying, but no mission would be tougher than his current battle — recovering from an IED explosion.
While out on a mission in Afghanistan, Yellock was riding in the exposed gunner’s position of a mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle when it struck an IED, destroying the vehicle and wounding him seriously. Thrown clear of the wreckage, his injuries were severe, including two badly shattered feet and a wound to his heel that would not stop bleeding. Reacting instinctively, he applied two tourniquets to his left leg and assisted the team medic in applying a third to his right leg. Despite his wound, Yellock went on to instruct the team leader how to select and mark a helicopter landing zone, advising him how to properly control the inbound aircraft.
“To me, the most amazing thing is just less than a year ago, both of his legs were shattered,” said Lt. Col. Chris Larkin, 23rd STS commander. “He’s standing here today, in front of us, walking down the aisle on his own two feet. It gives me great pride to present these medals to Johnnie – they mean a lot to me.”
With the help of the special tactics community, Yellock is thankful for support he and his family have received during the past year, as he recovers from his injuries.
“For this community to envelop my family with the amount of love and support is just amazing,” said Yellock, native of Texas. “There’s no amount of words I can say to express how I feel. Its been an amazing year. The best part was that I was able to walk down here, though I won’t be able to sneak up on anybody. My progress keeps getting better. I’m doing better than they said I’d do.”
After spending some time in the area, Yellock will be returning to the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas, to continue his recovery from his leg injuries.
Yellock was also presented the Air Medal, first oak leaf cluster, for aerial achievement during a previous deployment in 2010 to Afghanistan.