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Air Force civil engineer awarded Purple Heart from sniper wounds

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Colonel James Meersman (left) awards the Purple Heart to Capt. Clint Townsend (right), the Laghman PRT senior engineer, for being wounded in combat, Aug. 17. Captain Townsend, a native of Alaska, is deployed from Spangdahlem, Germany and graduated from Washington State University. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Felicia Juenke)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Colonel James Meersman (left) awards the Purple Heart to Capt. Clint Townsend (right), the Laghman PRT senior engineer, for being wounded in combat, Aug. 17. Captain Townsend, a native of Alaska, is deployed from Spangdahlem, Germany and graduated from Washington State University. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Felicia Juenke)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Captain Clint Townsend, Laghman PRT senior engineer, was awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat, Aug. 17. Captain Townsend was on a mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom when he was shot by a sniper. Captain Townsend, a native of Alaska, is deployed from Spangdahlem, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Felicia Juenke)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Captain Clint Townsend, Laghman PRT senior engineer, was awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat, Aug. 17. Captain Townsend was on a mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom when he was shot by a sniper. Captain Townsend, a native of Alaska, is deployed from Spangdahlem, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Felicia Juenke)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Colonel James Meersman (left) awards the Purple Heart to Capt. Clint Townsend (right), the Laghman PRT senior engineer, for being wounded in combat, Aug. 17. Captain Townsend was on a mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom when he was shot by a sniper.  Captain Townsend, a native of Alaska, is deployed from Spangdahlem, Germany and graduated from Washington State University. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Felicia Juenke)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Colonel James Meersman (left) awards the Purple Heart to Capt. Clint Townsend (right), the Laghman PRT senior engineer, for being wounded in combat, Aug. 17. Captain Townsend was on a mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom when he was shot by a sniper. Captain Townsend, a native of Alaska, is deployed from Spangdahlem, Germany and graduated from Washington State University. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Felicia Juenke)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- High in the mountains of Afghanistan's Laghman Province, Capt. Clint Townsend was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received by sniper fire Aug. 4.

Colonel James Meersman, 755th Air Expeditionary Group commander, pinned the medal on Captain Townsend, the Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team senior engineer, Aug. 17, in a ceremony before approximately 30 of his fellow Airmen and Soldiers.

"Captain Townsend embodies the spirit of all JET [joint expeditionary tasking] Airmen," said Col. Meersman. "Courage and selflessness; I'm proud to be on his team."

Captain Townsend had only been with the PRT for about a month the morning he was shot and said there had been indirect and small arms fire coming in for days. Another one of his teammates had been shot the day prior, while one other had narrowly escaped a sniper's round as it whizzed by his head.

"A loud crack," is what the Fairbanks, Alaska, native recalled hearing that morning. "It sounded like two pieces of wood smacking together."

That's when he felt pain and heard someone yelling, "Hey, someone's trying to kill you!"
The captain ran for cover and found medics taking cover on the other side of the compound.

"Have you been shot?" The medic's yelled. "I don't know," he said.

That's when he saw the blood. The medics immediately began working on Captain Townsend.

The Purple Heart is a "great honor" the captain said reflecting on his second deployment to Afghanistan working with PRTs.

"I've received outstanding care and am truly humbled," he said about the medical team acknowledging that their efforts were instrumental in allowing him to return to work within 24 hours of getting shot.

The captain, who had earned an electrical engineering degree from Washington State University, was surveying a power plant that had been sabotaged by insurgents in Afghanistan's Nuristan Province.

The PRT work in Nuristan is significant because "it proved we'd go back to bring power to this village," said the captain referring to the town with heavy insurgent activity.

Captain Townsend is deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

The Purple Heart is the United States oldest military award and has lineage to General George Washington in 1782. The back of the medal reads: "For military merit." In 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9277 which says the Purple Heart should be used for those "wounded in action against an enemy of the United States, or as a result of an act of such enemy, provided such would necessitate treatment by a medical officer," according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 755th Air Expeditionary Group, which reports to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing here, is responsible for more than 1,500 joint expeditionary tasking Airmen. JET Airmen are assigned in a non-Air Force mission, often supporting the Army throughout Afghanistan.