Wounded special ops weatherman keeps eyes forward

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Ty Foster
  • Air Force Special Operations Command
In an instant, Senior Airman Alex Eudy went from battling the enemies of Afghanistan to battling for his life.

It was just after 1 a.m. Jan. 24. He was only two months into his first deployment after graduating from advanced-skills training here in September 2008. The special operations weather team journeyman and the Marines he served with were on patrol about 30 miles from their firebase in the western province of Farah.

Behind the wheel of the fourth of four humvees, Airman Eudy and the five others in his vehicle kept their eyes peeled for variations in the road surface, exposed wires, freshly dug soil.-"Scab left" or "scab right" they called out. The driver adjusted his path of travel accordingly to mitigate the threat to the special operations patrol.

Then the roadway erupted.

Two 155-mm mortars and a Soviet anti-tank mine were command-detonated under the front of the vehicle. The engine flew 30 feet away as the six-ton rig somersaulted three times. The concussion of the blast rendered Airman Eudy unconscious.

His personal protective gear had done its job. There were no puncture wounds or lacerations from flying debris. In the violence of the explosion, however, his helmet chinstrap had sawed through the skin on his lower jaw. Everything else seemed fine, except his legs.

When he came to, he said he was lying nearby, outside the vehicle. He thought he'd been thrown out.

"My Marines told me when they pulled me out of the vehicle, they could hear the bones crunching," the 22-year-old warrior said. "Of the six of us in that vehicle, I was one of two who were non-ambulatory."

So Airman Eudy became the casualty collection point as the Marine special ops team set a defensive perimeter and requested med-evac airlift. He didn't just lie there, Airman Eudy said. He checked his buddies and put his combat lifesaver first aid training to work. He checked his weapon. The 9-mm pistol was still in its holster, but his M-4 rifle had been lost in the explosion.

In the hours and days after the explosion, Airman Eudy's parents, Dale and Kathy Eudy of Highlands Ranch, Colo., spoke with their son and others involved in the convoy, medical evacuation, treatment and travel back to the states.

Despite dozens of fractures from both knees down, the special ops weatherman kept his mission focus, Mr. Eudy said. With a medical evacuation helicopter, Airman Eudy's special operations weather team mission was paramount.

"When the medevac was inbound, Alex was telling his Marines how to use his instruments to pass critical weather data for the helicopter landing zone," Mr. Eudy said.

"That's what we do, generate high-fidelity, localized, mission-tailored forecast to for ingress, employment and egress of air, land and sea forces," Airman Eudy said.

His training and discipline had earned him his gray beret, fulfilling a dream he'd held as a 17-year-old. Now it would bolster him for survival and recovery.

"When the med-evac helicopter touched down, the flight medical technician knelt down to Alex who was strapped down on the stretcher," Mr. Eudy7 said. "'We're gonna take care of you,' he said. 'You're going to be okay.'"

In triage later that morning, Airman Eudy said he heard the doctor saying, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The quote by Sir Edmund Burke is tattooed on Airman Eudy's back.

"That's why we're here," Airman Eudy said. "That's why special tactics is so important. We can't sit around and let evil triumph."

Less than 10 days after the explosion, the Airman was lying in a waiting room in the hospital at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., swaddled from the knees down in bandages, bones pinned, screwed and grafted. He was surrounded by family and friends, "and everyone is Alex's friend," Mrs. Eudy said.

Lt. Gen. Donny Wurster, the commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, stopped in to present the bed-ridden, post-op Airman with The Purple Heart and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

The only time Airman Eudy's "eyes leaked," as he put it, was when he offered tribute to his fellows who were wounded with him and to the Marines who had adopted him as one of their own.

They adopted him, as they do all special operations battlefield Airmen, because despite their high-operations tempo, these Airmen seamlessly integrate with their sister service brothers.

"We're in the field in direct contact with enemy fighters and friendly air assets, keeping them abreast of real-time conditions on the target," said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Gilbert, 10th Combat Weather Squadron operations NCO in charge.

Despite the months of painful healing, rehabilitation and reliance on others, he is not dissuaded.

"Wallowing in sorrows doesn't do anybody any good," Airman Eudy said. "I'm not out of the fight. This is just a different kind of fight."

He approaches his recovery just like any other mission.

"Just like we pack our gear for a mission, I know what's going on with my treatment," he said. "I'm packing my tools for a different battlefield. As a patient, I'll never be uneducated. I'll know my treatment options and medications."

He hopes his recovery will lead him to the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Airman Eudy said there is a chance he will not return to duty as a fully functioning and deployable special operations weather team member. Regardless, his special tactics brethren offer unflagging support to Airman Eudy and his family. That camaraderie, seemingly forged in the DNA of special tactics Airmen, will carry Airman Eudy down the road to recovery, he said.

"They become your family and families intertwine," Airman Eudy said. "In special tactics, you're held to a higher calling. It's something more that protects you, not only on the battlefield, but on the home front as well."

Time will tell whether Airman Eudy wins his battle to regain his former mobility. Vast challenges lay ahead, but Alex Eudy -- Airman, warrior, friend -- is keeping his eyes forward to win the next battle.