1st Sgt fights 'fire' in Afghanistan (Glosson's story: part 5 of Gunfighter Defender series)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- At any given time, a few Airmen have the job of traveling throughout Afghanistan, teaching Afghans firefighting skills and inspecting facilities.

Imagine flying aboard a UH-60 Blackhawk snaking its way through the high Afghan mountains toward a forward operating base, when all of a sudden the pilot banks to the left. In awe, imagine gasping and seeing explosions while, back-to-back, five rocket-propelled grenades streak toward the helicopter.

Seeing it on a movie and living it first-hand is vastly different, and Master Sgt. Ryan Glosson, the 366th Security Forces Squadron first sergeant, can attest to that fact.

While the 16-year veteran leads the Mountain Home Air Force Base Defenders as the senior enlisted advisor to the 366th SFS commander, the Air Force trained him as a firefighter.

Glosson has vast combat experience and has deployed to Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Southwest Asia twice, Pakistan, Curacao, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of the many challenging days during his many deployments, one day resonates with Glosson more than the others, and that's May 6, 2011.

As Glosson and fellow firefighter Tech. Sgt. John Knight rested in their containerized housing units at Bagram Airfield, rockets impacted and exploded, knocking Glosson to the floor and wounding Knight with shrapnel.

Hearing Knight's screams for help, Glosson shook off the blast, and made his way through the smoke and shredded metal to Knight's position to administer first aid. What Glosson saw during the chaos of that attack solidified what he believes is a vital need to be ready for combat.

"I couldn't believe the number of people who refused to help Sergeant Knight and I," recalled Glosson. "As I came out of the CHU, I saw many people running away and they refused to come back and help. It's imperative people get their minds right and be ready to respond when needed."

People need to know that even if they're not going outside the wire, they still face real danger, said Glosson.

"It's real easy to say you'll be brave in combat," said Glosson. "Unfortunately the only time you will know is when the shit hits the fan and how you react."

Glosson's mettle was tested again while at FOB Shank, when he took five separate attacks with multiple rockets each day. Like many locations, FOB Shank had sirens which would sound to signify incoming rocket attacks. Glosson recalled that day:

"No sooner did the siren begin its second wail, the explosion happened," said Glosson. "I was caught between my CHU and the bunker. My head began to ring and I thought, 'oh no, I am in the wrong place at the right time again.'"

The rocket hit about 30 meters from Glosson. Within seconds, he heard hollering and went to see if he could help.

"Soldiers and Afghan civilians were laying all over bleeding from injuries," Glosson said. "As the Soldiers began loading up the injured, I went to the hospital with a contract medic to assist."

Unfortunately some Afghan civilians and Soldiers were killed that day, said Glosson, who survived that attack and others, and now uses his experiences to prepare Defenders for their own deployments.

"The military is a dangerous line of work," said Glosson. "It doesn't matter if you're a firefighter, cop, pilot or mechanic, bad things can happen when you're in harm's way - that's reality."

Airmen who don't understand that, need a reality check, said Glosson.

"When I was a young Airman, we didn't have as many combat-tested Airmen as we do today," he continued. "My advice is to listen to what these folks have to say. The lessons they teach may someday save your life."

Editor's note: This is part 5 of series on 366th SFS Defenders. Be prepared to read the riveting stories of Tech. Sgt. Francis Woznick, Master Sgt. Brian Wilson, Master Sgt. Robert Simpson, Senior Master Sgt. David Williams, Joshua Williams and other brave Defenders in the coming weeks.