By Katelyn Gendron
Tech Sgt. Dan Warren, 30, humbly recalls the events of Sept. 14, 2012, as a day like any other for the pararescueman and his team in Afghanistan. At approximately 10 p.m., however, the day was far from ordinary as 15 insurgents attacked Camp Bastion, killing two, wounding nine and causing millions of dollars worth of damage.
For his heroic efforts repelling the attackers, Warren, a Springfield native and graduate of East Longmeadow High School, was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor during a standing room only ceremony at Patrick Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida on March 2. Chief Master Sgt. Paul Barendregt, Maj. Matthew Komatsu and Master Sgt. Kyle Minshew, three members of his team while stationed with the 308th Rescue Squadron, had received their Stars on Dec. 7, 2013, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, while Warren was deployed in Africa.
“I do feel so honored but that night, for me, represents Lt. Col. [Christopher] Raible and Sgt. [Bradley] Atwell, two dynamic guys who made the ultimate sacrifice [by laying down their lives],” Warren told Reminder Publications during a phone interview from Florida.
“This wasn’t an isolated event, even in Afghanistan,” he continued. “We were running three missions a day, 93 missions total [throughout the course of the deployment]. This was just one of the days we had off. It was impressive because men were manning posts in their pajamas and they were going above and beyond to defend the area.”
The team was enjoying its first day off in two months, Warren explained, when a distress call, “HC-130 crews receiving small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades, bunkering down,” was heard over the radio. Warren, Barendregt, Komatsu and Minshew grabbed their gear and rushed toward the fight in an unarmored vehicle.
The six-hour battle, which killed 14 insurgents and captured one, was the largest enemy assault on an American airfield since the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, according to information released by the Air Force.
Warren called the events of that night another call to action for pararescuemen. “Our whole mission is to save lives where very few people can,” he explained. “It puts it in perspective because you’re going in there to save somebody.”
The job of a pararescueman in the United States Air Force isn’t for just any person, however; it takes more than two years of grueling specialized training at seven different air force bases throughout the country to ensure without a doubt that those seeking to become a member of this elite group are dedicated to its mission, “That Others May Live.”
The training pipeline includes an Indoctrination Course at Lackland AFB in Texas, U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning in Georgia, U.S. Air Force Combat Diver School in Panama City, Fla., U.S. Navy Underwater Egress Training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, U.S. Air Force Basic Survival School at Fairchild AFB in Washington, U.S. Army Military Free Fall Parachutist School at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and Paramedic Course and Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico.
“It’s the most rewarding, self-realizing career,” Warren said of being a pararescueman.
The downside of such an intense job, he added, “You’re only one ankle break or back break from becoming obsolete.”
When asked how he’s able to transition to and from deployment with such ease, Warren replied, “That line is pretty blurred. I have a lot of people in my life to keep me darn humble. My wife [1st Lt. Sara Warren] is a navigator on a C-130 so she knows what I go through.”
He also credited his parents, Ray and Maureen Warren, of Springfield, and his brother, Josh Warren, of the United Kingdom, for ensuring he maintains perspective.
“We know that he loves what he does and that’s important,” Ray Warren said. “He’s a trained professional who manages the risks. He has accepted the danger. Maureen and I always preached independence and taught them [our sons] to get ready for whatever comes and they actually went out [into the world] and did it.”
When asked what’s next for the technical sergeant, now that he’s been awarded the Bronze Star and has completed four overseas deployments, Warren replied that he’s planning for a post-military future while serving on active duty training reservists at Patrick AFB. He’s currently enrolled in prerequisite courses at Eastern Florida State College to pursue a civilian career in the medical field.