Word on the Street

The latest news in and around Tacoma, Pierce County and South Puget Sound

NOTICE: Word on the Street has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Word on the Street.
Visit the new section.

Category: McChord Air Force Base


The Hawks’ most far-flung fan?

I just got off the phone with Lt. Col. Jim McGann, the mission commander for Operation Deep Freeze. I was talking to him about a mission to drop a crucial engine part to a fishing trawler trapped below the Antarctic Circle.

I mentioned I was at Qwest Field, and he got pumped. The game apparently isn’t on TV in Christchurch, New Zealand.

"What’s the score, man?" he said. I told him the Hawks were up, 7-0, and he let out a little cheer.


McChord airman deflects glory of Silver Star

A three-star general had just pinned three medals to Scott Innis’ left lapel, but the technical sergeant avoided talking about himself.

The 16-year veteran of the Air Force said he was happy his family could attend the ceremony and the honor bestowed on his unit, the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron.

But, someone asked Innis, what did it mean to him personally?

"I’m happy for my unit," he replied. "I like that I got the promotion points. And I think it’s 10 percent on my retirement, and that’s kind of cool."

Innis might have deflected the personal glory, but make no mistake – plenty of attention was focused on him.

A Silver Star has a way of doing that.

Innis received the nation’s third-highest award for valor at a ceremony in a hanger at McChord Air Force Base for calling in aerial strikes from an exposed position during an attack in Afghanistan last year. He also received a Bronze Star and the Air Force Combat Action Medal for his duty while working as a joint terminal attack controller attached with an Army Special Forces unit.

Thirteen other airman received medals at the ceremony, but Air Force officials asked the news media not to identify all but one for security reasons. Ten Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts and 12 Air Force Combat Action Medals were awarded.

Lt. Gen. Donald C. Wurster, the commander of the Air Force Special Operations Command, was on hand to award the medals. He compared the elite airmen to warriors from the Old Testament.

"A dozen Special Forces soldiers with a combat controller is an extremely lethal force when combined with airpower," he said after the ceremony. "We showed it in the early days of Afghanistan, and we continue to show it today."

Innis’ medal stems from his actions on March 28, 2006, when Innis and other members of the Army Special Forces detachment came under fire of rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds, heavy machine-gun and small-arms fire from three directions. Despite the danger, Innis scaled a ladder to an observation platform stationed at the center of their firebase. The platform was the only structure visible outside the perimeter and received the bulk of enemy fire.

From that platform, he called in and helped guide aerial counterattacks. He remained on the platform despite several close calls during the 24-hour battle and also coordinated to get injured coalition soldiers evacuated. The airpower he directed led to the death or injury of more than 100 Taliban insurgents.

"He’s a quiet professional," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey F. Staha, the commander of the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron. "He’s one of the guys I turn to handle tough missions."

Tech. Sgt. Jason Dryer received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. In April, insurgents ambushed his unit in Afghanistan with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. Dryer fought through the ambush and called in an airstrike by an AC-130 gunship. He also called in strikes to quash second and third waves of the ambush.

He later injured his knee and soldier when an improvised-explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Afghanistan.

"I remember turning back to my friend and saying, ‘I can’t wait for this to be over,’ " he said. "I turned back and don’t remember anything else. I woke up in my friend’s arms with all my clothes were cut off me and all bloody."

He went to Kandahar for treatment and returned to his unit downrange about 10 days later.
Dryer said he’ll continue training and awaits his next assignment. Wurster had a message for him.

"I told him I didn’t want to give him another Purple Heart," Wurster said, "so don’t earn one."

Read more »


McChord airman to receive Silver Star

A combat controller from McChord Air Force Base will be awarded a Silver Star tomorrow. Tech. Sgt. Scott Innis will receive the nation’s third-highest award for valor. About 25 other medals will be distributed at the ceremony.

I’m going to be on base tomorrow for the ceremony, but a transcript of a speech Innis delivered in September 2006 detailing his time downrange can be found here. It’s compelling reading.