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Fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda: TSgt. Kevin Whalen

Tech. Sgt. Kevin Whalen (right) sitting on a Special Forces Humvee in Afghanistan. To his right is a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher mounted on the vehicle. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Tech. Sgt. Kevin Whalen (right) sitting on a Special Forces Humvee in Afghanistan. To his right is a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher mounted on the vehicle. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Tech. Sgt. Kevin Whalen received the Purple Heart while in a field hospital in Afghanistan. He later gave that Purple Heart medal to a wounded Afghan soldier. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Tech. Sgt. Kevin Whalen received the Purple Heart while in a field hospital in Afghanistan. He later gave that Purple Heart medal to a wounded Afghan soldier. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Special Forces team in Afghanistan. Tech. Sgt. Kevin Whalen is first on the left, wearing the cap now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Special Forces team in Afghanistan. Tech. Sgt. Kevin Whalen is first on the left, wearing the cap now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Part of the Warrior Airmen exhibit in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Part of the Warrior Airmen exhibit in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On July 19, 2003, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Whalen, a Terminal Attack Controller from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron, Washington National Guard, was supporting an Afghan Military Forces and U.S. Special Forces combat patrol in the Gayan Valley, Afghanistan. The patrol was hit in a well-coordinated ambush by a numerically superior enemy force. 

Whalen returned effective fire with an automatic grenade launcher and remained exposed to enemy fire from three directions while the rest of the team took cover. The grenade launcher was hit six times, but Whalen remained at his post. While he was trying to fix the launcher, Whalen was hit three times: one bullet hit his body armor, another his Gerber tool, and the third struck him in the left arm. Whalen dropped out of the turret and began first aid to stop the bleeding. At the same time, he recovered his radio and calmly called in close air support. 

When the engagement was over, Whalen insisted that all other wounded be evacuated first so he could keep control of the close air support. After two days in the hospital, he refused to stay and went back to the team to continue combat missions. For his actions, Tech. Sgt. Whalen was awarded the Silver Star.

Click here to return to the Warrior Airmen Overview.

 

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