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Sheppard Airmen disarm potential threat, earn medal for courage

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Robert L. McIlrath
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
Most Airmen attend parties to unwind from a long week and have a good time, but it doesn't always work out that way.

Airman 1st Class Joe Serna and Airman Pauanthony Stamps, 82nd Security Forces Squadron entry controllers, were presented Air Force Commendation Medals on Nov. 31, 2014, for acts of courage when they took a loaded pistol away from a heavily intoxicated Airman at a party.

"I just did what I figured anyone would do in a situation like that," Serna said, "what I hope anyone would do under those circumstances."

During the evening of Sept. 13, 2014, while at a party, Serna and Stamps distinguished themselves by intervening when a highly intoxicated fellow Airman brandished a loaded pistol in the dormitory and verbally threatened the lives of those around him.

"We were at the party just hanging out," Serna said. "A good bit of people were there and I noticed he was pretty drunk at this point, I saw him go to his room and then came out with a pistol in his waistband."

After spotting the weapon and realizing the situation was starting to spiral out of control, Serna and Stamps knew they needed to act fast. The individual quickly became enraged, fueled by alcohol and confined to the small dorm room party area packed with people, ingredients for a recipe for a disaster.  

Both Airmen quietly started to discuss the situation away from the loud music and partygoers. They quickly assembled a plan to intervene and disarm the intoxicated Airman. Serna and Stamps relied on their training and knew isolating him was key.

"We got him to walk with us away from the party and then Stamps crept up behind him and grabbed his arms so he wouldn't be able to pull out the gun," Serna said. "I took the gun away and unloaded it."

Although the intoxicated Airman resisted and struggled to break free, Serna and Stamps were able to overpower him, restrain his movements and separate him from his firearm, preventing him from harming himself or others.

"We just wanted to get the gun to the armory and get that individual to the chaplain," Serna said. "We didn't even think about a medal."

The two Airmen then handcuffed the individual and attempted to calm him down after he started harming himself.

Tech. Sgt. Rashon Taggart, Serna and Stamp's flight sergeant, is proud of the selfless actions his Airmen took to prevent others from potentially being harmed.

"It's really hard to get them to understand how big of a deal it is," Taggart said. "There was a lot of potential for a lot of harm to happen to a lot of different people."

According to the medal citation, Serna and Stamps were upholding the highest core values of the Air Force and showed care and compassion for their fellow wingmen.

"Getting shot was in the back of my mind," Stamps said. "But that wasn't the important thing, the important thing was the safety of all the other people at the party."

Following the confrontation they reported the incident, allowing the chain of command to initiate care for the individual.

"It's guaranteed that other people saw the same thing, but decided to turn their eye to the situation and hope it just goes away," Taggart said. "But hoping something goes away is not always going to happen, you have to make things happen, just like they did."