NEWS | March 2, 2011

Courageous Airmen receive recognition, medals

By Airman 1st Class Jared Trimarchi Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

A staff sergeant and two senior airmen from Joint Base Charleston were recognized Feb. 18 for their quick reactions that led to the takedown of an intruder on Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, during their deployment in 2009.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Houghton, communication and navigation specialist from the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, received the Air Force Commendation Medal for an act of courage after physically tackling the intruder.

According to the citation, "Sergeant Houghton responded to a Helping Hand incident for an unauthorized person on the flightline. After the intruder had been corralled into an aircraft hanger, he prohibited the intruder's access back to the flightline and towards the vicinity of several aircraft. Sergeant Houghton physically engaged the intruder to bring him to the ground, during which time the assailant attempted to stab him. His quick, decisive actions and complete disregard for his own personal safety were instrumental in removing the immediate threat of an individual carrying a satchel that he claimed contained a bomb."

The sergeant responded to the incident after the intruder had been chased into a hanger. Sergeant Houghton physically engaged the intruder and prevented the intruder's access back to the flightline. His courageous actions prevented the potential sabotage of six C-17s.

Sergeant Houghton's wingmen, Senior Airman Jared Alessi, a crew chief from the 437 AMXS and Senior Airman Grant Carson, electrical environmental craftsman also from the 437 AMXS, both assisted in apprehending the intruder and received Air Force Achievement Medals.

Their citations read, "Airman Alessi and Airman Carson responded to a helping hand incident for an unauthorized person on the flightline. They aided in corralling the intruder into an aircraft hanger and away from the vicinity of several aircraft. The Airmen joined others in subduing the intruder following a struggle in which the assailant attempted to stab a fellow maintainer with a screwdriver. Their quick, decisive actions and complete disregard for their own personal safety were instrumental in removing the immediate threat of an individual carrying a satchel that he claimed contained a bomb."

"I couldn't have done it alone," Sergeant Houghton said. "We all came together that day and through teamwork and communication we were able to act quickly."

Sergeant Houghton didn't wake up that morning thinking he would become a hero, but what started out as a normal day in Incirlik, ended in the capture of an intruder and the hospitalization of a wingman.

"Airman Alessi and I were taking care of cleanup detail when we came out from the back of a building near the flightline and heard a production supervisor yell, 'Get down, get down,'
Sergeant Houghton said. "Initially I thought an aircraft was going to crash, but when we saw a truck chasing an individual who was running on the flightline, I knew it wasn't the case."

Airman Carson and the production supervisor driving the truck chased the intruder into a hanger.

Sergeant Houghton said the intruder was holding something in his hand and was carrying a satchel clenched close to his body. He was yelling in Turkish and claiming he had a bomb.

Airman Carson, the production supervisor and two other Airmen who were chasing the intruder came out of the hanger and yelled, 'Take him down, take him down!'

"I ran after him, and I tackled him," he said. "I completely smashed him and that's when four other Airmen including Airman Alessi and Airman Carson piled on top of him."

"I shouted to everyone that the intruder was armed," Airman Carson said. "Then the intruder ran out the hanger and that's when Sergeant Houghton tackled him. It was a pretty sweet tackle."

Airman Alessi, who was next to Sergeant Houghton, was the first person to pile on the intruder after the tackle.

"It happened so fast," Airman Alessi said, "It was all in slow motion. I just reacted."

The intruder was held until Turkish security forces arrived and arrested him. The actions off all three Airmen removed the immediate threat and ensured the safety of Incirlik Air Base personnel.

The intruder had stabbed Sergeant Houghton on his left side below his shoulder with the screwdriver. Sergeant Houghton was seen and released from the hospital for a minor injury and made a speedy recovery.

Capt. Tabitha Rand, Blue Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge from the 437 AMXS and a supervisor of Sergeant Houghton, Airman Carson and previous supervisor of Airman Alessi, is proud of her Airmen.

"It doesn't surprise me at all that they stepped up," Captain Rand said. "They are all terrific troops and go-getters. I can see them wanting to protect the aircraft that they work so hard on every day."