At 4:15 a.m., July 17, 2014, Tech. Sgts. Rafael Melendez, Randy Sampson and Matthew Treadwell,
assigned to NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan, were asleep in Kabul. Suddenly, loud explosions
and the sound of small arms fire served as a startling wake-up call. Taliban insurgents were attacking
from less than 400 meters outside the perimeter.
Each man donned protective gear and ran from his room, quickly meeting up outside. They grabbed
a few more Airmen and jumped into a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle (MRAP) and headed
outside the gate onto the encircling Afghan Air Force base. As they turned a corner toward the action,
bullets and rocket-propelled grenades were going off everywhere. They stopped behind a building
just 150 meters from the multi-story unfinished building housing the attackers.
As the MRAP’s gunner laid down suppressive fire, Melendez stepped out of the vehicle and
rendezvoused with an Afghan quick reaction force to de-conflict plans and avoid any confusion in the
heat of battle. The combat veteran of eleven deployments served as a calming force to his U.S. and
Afghan teammates – reminding them to relax and rely on their training. When he returned to the truck,
Treadwell and Sampson asked to get to a closer position and use Treadwell’s advanced optics to get
good shots at the attackers.
Kicking in doors and clearing each room in a long hallway, the two sergeants made their way from the
south side to the north side of an AAF building, where they took position in a room just 100 meters
away from the gunfire. For two hours, Treadwell and Sampson used grazing fire to keep the enemy
heads down and called out positions to the heavy gunners back at the forward operating base’s towers.
At one point, the room lit up with gunfire. Bullets and rocket-propelled grenades screamed all around
as the two security forces Airmen alternated between taking cover and returning fire.
Ultimately, an Afghan-led quick reaction force arrived at the attackers’ position and cleared the
remaining insurgents. Covered in broken shards of glass, Sampson and Treadwell left the building and
rejoined Melendez to perform sweeps and return to the forward operating base.
Melendez, Sampson and Treadwell demonstrated leadership by example and acted with courage in
risking their lives to get close to a determined enemy fighting from an elevated position of cover.
Together with a team of U.S. and Afghan security forces, they eliminated the enemy and zero coalition
casualties were suffered in a fight that lasted more than four hours. They were each awarded the Air
Force Combat Action Medal and two received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor.