Carroll awarded Air Force Combat Action Medal

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mark Olsen
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing


Sometimes it takes time to be recognized for something you did.


Sometime it’s a long time.

Case in point: Capt. Steven E. Carroll.


Sixteen years ago, 22 year-old Senior Airman Carroll with the 514th Security Forces Squadron was deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan with the 621st Air Mobility Operations Tanker Airlift Control in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

On the evening of Jan. 10, 2002, less than four months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Carroll was assigned as an M60 machine gunner at a forward observation post on the airfield’s perimeter.
At 10:45, Taliban forces began firing near his position. The heavy machine gun fire increased, with the bullets hitting between the airfield and the observation post.


Because the enemy was using tracer rounds, Carroll located their position and immediately returned fire. For the next 15 minutes, a firefight ensued until the Taliban forces broke contact.

In 2002, the Air Force did not have a specific award for his performance. As the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts continued, it became apparent that a combat action award was needed. In 2007, the Air Force established the Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM).
The AFCAM is awarded to Airmen who were under direct and hostile fire while operating in an unsecured space, which is defined as outside the defended perimeter, or physically engaging hostile forces with direct and lethal fire.


When the medal came out, no one thought about recognizing Carroll for his actions.

Time passed and Senior Airman Carroll pursued his commission and on August 6, 2013, he became 2nd Lt. Carroll. By the time he made first lieutenant, he was the operations officer for the 514th Security Forces Squadron. And during that time, that 15-minute firefight had become just another part of the squadron’s folklore.


“A sizable portion of the squadron has changed in the 16 years since Capt. Carroll encountered that Taliban patrol in Afghanistan,” said Maj. Michael Gibbs, commander, 514th SFS. “Only a few of the old timers knew about the ‘story.’”

Gibbs heard about the story and realized that Carroll had to be recognized.


“I was taught a long time ago that in order to be an effective leader, you must publicly recognize the amazing achievements your subordinates do.”

Only two 514th Security Forces Squadron Airmen have received the medal: Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Alicandro received her award while assigned to the 87th Security Forces Squadron and Master Sgt. Antonio Delgado was presented his medal while he was with the Air Mobility Warfare Center.


“Master Sgt. Miriam Carpio-Hospedales’ team aggressively pursued the leads, which enabled us to track down the other Kandahar team members,” said Gibbs. “Their information and statements were the basis for the Air Force Combat Action Medal submission.”

On Sept. 16, 2018, sixteen years and seven months after that January firefight, in front of the entire 514th Security Forces Squadron, Gibbs presented Carroll his medal.


“This new generation of Defenders witnessed firsthand, their operations officer being decorated with the Air Force Combat Action Medal,” said Gibbs. “They now understand why Capt. Carroll takes training seriously, it is because he wants to make sure that they are fully prepared when called upon to defend our nation.”

Like Senior Airman Carroll did in Afghanistan on Jan. 10, 2002.