Three 106th Rescue Wing Security Forces Squadron receive the Purple Heart Published June 24, 2015 By Staff Sergeant Christopher S Muncy 106RQW WESTHAMPTON BEACH, NY -- Three Air National Guard Airman from the 106th Rescue Wing Security Forces Squadron received the Purple Heart Medal during a ceremony at the American Legion Post 1545 in Eastport. Master Sergeant Christian M. Cote, Technical Sergeant Eric V. Auletta and Staff Sergeant Brian Hammel were awarded the medal for injuries sustained during two separate combat actions in Operation Enduring Freedom. "We were on a routine mission outside the wire going to [the forward operating base]." said Cote, who was a team leader during one of the incidents. "We went out there, and on the way back we passed one of the local villages where we saw several military-age males on the side, which was odd because it was Ramadan. The next thing we knew, the IED went off." The explosion wrecked the vehicle and knocked the occupants momentarily unconscious. "The details of it are intermittent," Cote continued. "I don't remember it going off; I just remember the cabin filling with smoke and dust. It took a second for everything to come back together. I remember looking around the vehicle, trying to see if everyone was ok. Then the gunner started firing the 50. cal." Aluetta, who was the truck commander and one of the first of the injured to come to, immediately began to respond to the attack. "When we came to, I couldn't see anything through the smoke. But when this happens, you go through your checklist; make sure the others are okay, check the status of the vehicle and radio in that we had been hit. At that point I didn't know what hit us, just that we had been hit. The vehicle was completely disabled. The other vehicles in the convoy backed up, with the third providing rear security. Even as the enemy continued firing, Cote, Hammel and Aluetta began emergency towing procedures. After a few minutes, the vehicle was roped up and the crew was towed to safety. "It's a unique warrior that assures his family that everything is fine, then goes outside the wire, gets blown up, crawls back to base, and then does it all over again the next day," said Major Ronnie Maloney, 106th Security Forces Squadron commander. "And it takes a very special family to trust, support and endure it from home." Hammel gave his thoughts on receiving the Purple Heart Medal, saying that he was "humbled and honored," a notion shared by his fellow airmen. "It was fortunate that we didn't lose anybody that day," Aluetta agreed.