Staff Sgt. David Kechter, 62nd Security Forces Squadron armory NCOIC, receives the Purple Heart from Col. Jeffrey Stephenson, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, during a ceremony at the armory here. Sergeant Kechter, a Strasburg, Colo., native, was wounded in November 2007 while conducting a combat patrol in Umm-Qasr, Iraq. At the time of his injury, he was serving as a gunner in a Humvee; his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. He returned from his deployment in May. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)
MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. — Wednesday in Iraq – another routine day – it would be hump day if it weren’t for the seven-day work week the Airmen from the 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron at Camp Bucca, Iraq, commit to.
For one security forces .50 caliber Humvee gunner, Nov. 28, 2007 would be more than just another routine day in the combat zone.
While serving as the turret gunner on the lead truck for his Quick Response Force team, Staff Sgt. David Kechter, a Strasburg, Colo. native, was struck by an improvised explosive device.
“My headset flew off and my lenses were completely blown out of my safety glasses,” said Sergeant Kechter, a 1999 Strasburg High School graduate. “I fell down inside the turret and lost feeling. I couldn’t open my eye and I could taste blood in my mouth.”
The truck was filled with dirt and smoke as Sergeant Kechter’s team drove as fast as they could out of the blast zone. Their Humvee was badly damaged and stopped working after a few hundred feet. Each of the Airmen was stunned. In the aftermath Sergeant Kechter had suffered a concussion, bloody nose and had shrapnel in his right eye.
“They had to take me to triage,” said Sergeant Kechter, the 62nd Security Forces Squadron Armory NCOIC. “They had to use a hypodermic needle to pull the shrapnel out of my eye.”
Because of his injuries Sergeant Kechter spent 72 hours on medically ordered rest. Undaunted, he served the remainder of his deployment through he returned here in May. On Monday Sergeant Kechter’s combat role was honored when he received the Purple Heart during a ceremony at the Armory.
“What a tremendous honor for Staff Sergeant Kechter to receive the Purple Heart,” said Lt. Col. Robert Kafka, 62nd SFS commander. “He is thoroughly committed to serving his nation. I’m proud of his selfless actions.”
“I am humbled by this honor,” added Sergeant Kechter. “The way I see it, I was just doing my job.”
Since his return from Iraq, Sergeant Kechter supervises eight personnel who secure, store and issue more than 700 weapons and maintains more than $1.9 million in ammunition and equipment for Team McChord.
“His contributions to the security forces squadron are invaluable,” said Master Sgt. Bruce McPherson, 62nd SFS logistics superintendent and Sergeant Kechter’s supervisor. “He brings the same dedication to duty no matter where he it. He is an Airman of great character and we are proud to have him as part of our team.”
For Sergeant Kechter, a combat arms instructor responsible for instructing military personnel on 12 weapons systems, his day-to-day life is slowly going back to routine. He still suffers from headaches, blind spots in his right eye and ringing in his ears, but every day he shows up to work ready to serve.
“I know it sounds corny, but I didn’t join the Air Force for college or benefits,” said Sergeant Kechter. “Although I still have some minor medical issues, I joined to serve my country and I’m proud to do it every day.”
“While he doesn’t see himself as a hero Sergeant Kechter is representative of Airmen today, said Sergeant McPherson. “Making the sacrifices necessary to fly, fight, and win . . . in air, space, and cyberspace. With Airmen like Sergeant Kechter, being a hero everyday is just routine.”