U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jimmy Boulware, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator, receives a Purple Heart decoration from Col. Michael Winkler, 354th Fighter Wing commander, during a promotion recognition ceremony at the base theater July 31, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Boulware sustained injuries from an improvised explosive device during a 2005 deployment to Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft/Released)
This U.S. Air Force light medium tactical vehicle sustained damage from an improvised explosive device during a deployment in Iraq, 2005. Staff Sgt. Jimmy Boulware, at the time an Airman 1st Class, rode as truck commander in this LMTV when the IED went off as he rode past. (courtesy photo)
U.S. Airmen assigned to gun truck company Detachment 2632, Alpha Flight, poses for a group photo during a deployment in 2005, Balad Air Base, Iraq. Alpha Flight provided armed escorts for cargo haulers. (courtesy photo)
A Detachment 2632 light medium tactical vehicle gun truck drives along a transportation route in Iraq, 2005. Det. 2632 was one of the last operational Air Force gun truck companies in the area of operations, before armed escort duties were handed over to the U.S. Army. (courtesy photo)
by Senior Airman Peter Reft
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
7/31/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jimmy Boulware, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator, received a Purple Heart decoration during a promotion recognition ceremony Thursday for injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device Oct. 6, 2005 while deployed to Iraq.
Then an Airman 1st Class, Boulware was serving on his first deployment at Balad Air Base, now Joint Base Balad. He rode as truck commander along with gunner Staff Sgt. Starkey and truck driver Senior Airman Salinas.
"We were tasked with escorting some Army cargo from Balad up to Tikrit," said Boulware. "Everything was normal as we got past a check point. Then the front gun truck called out a possible IED."
The convoy continued on its route while Soldiers and Airmen kept an extra eye out for explosives.
"Everyone said to stay alert and I turned to my gunner, Sergeant Starkey, and told him there was a possible IED," said Boulware. "He asked me why we weren't stopping and I said I didn't know."
The cargo haulers and gun trucks rolled on without incident until the last truck in the convoy came upon a 155mm shape charge lying beside the road. Boulware, Starkey and Salinas were in that truck.
"It was the loudest thing I've ever heard," said Boulware. "Salinas swerved as it detonated on my side of the truck and it cut all our air lines, went through the wheel axles, went through the bed and blew out 3 of our tires."
Boulware said that they were travelling 55 miles per hour and had no traction when the blast hit them, causing the driver to lose control.
"It blew the whole vehicle sideways and then we ran off the road and flipped," said Boulware. "We did a handstand before the truck flipped onto its side and then we crawled out of the gun turret."
The truck was heavily armored so Boulware and his crew did not get hit by any shrapnel, but the equipment inside the truck created additional problems for the Airmen.
"We had a double combat load so we had 14 magazines for each M4 carbine, 1,000 rounds of .50-caliber, an extra .50-caliber barrel, two radio systems and a lot other equipment that is secured down," said Boulware. "Stuff tends to fly when you flip."
When he returned from his deployment, medical personnel diagnosed him with torn ligaments and tendons. When Boulware came to Eielson, he was seen by a traumatic brain injury clinic and further diagnosed with TBI, concussion and post-concussion symptoms.
"They got me in touch with Johnny Hernandez, the Alaska Air Force Recovery Care Coordinator," said Boulware. "He entered me into the Air Force Wounded Warrior program and submitted my package."
Boulware discovered he would receive a Purple Heart one day after finding out he was selected for promotion to technical sergeant.
"The Air Force isn't just about flying," said Boulware. "We're out there doing the job on the ground and without these guys, troops can't get any water, ammo or fuel."
Boulware's 2009 deployment to Iraq lasted 217 days, including training. He and his gun truck company participated in 144 escort missions and traveled a total of 76,000 miles.
"Be considerate to your bus, aircrew and shuttle drivers and other support personnel because you never know what they've been through on deployments," said Boulware. "Take pride in your job, you never know what you'll be tasked with on a deployment."