Sailor awarded Bronze Star

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Justin Jewett was awarded one of the military’s top medals for courage and valor at a ceremony Thursday afternoon at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Jewett earned the medal during combat operations in Iraq while assigned to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit of the 62nd Ordnance Company.

The mission of EOD personnel is to find, disarm and remove harmful explosive devices and mines. In Iraq their primary mission was the disarming and removal of roadside bombs or Improvised Explosive Devices, widely known as IEDs.

The Bronze Star criteria set forth by the Department of Defense states, “The Bronze Star medal may be awarded to individuals who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States in a combat theater, distinguish themselves by heroism, outstanding achievement, or by meritorious service not involving aerial flight.”

Jewett met the criteria for the distinguished award in earnest for actions in a battle in the Iraqi city of Mosul in March of 2005.

While responding to a report of an IED his team came under heavy enemy fire. During the firefight a member of Jewett’s team was struck by small-arms fire in the leg and collapsed out in the open. Without hesitation, Jewett ran through a hail of gunfire and dragged his injured companion more than 20 feet to safety behind a vehicle. He then proceeded to attend to his wounded comrade, dressing his injuries and administering first aid. Still under heavy fire, Jewett supervised the evacuation of the wounded soldier, ultimately saving his life.

“We were ambushed by a group of Iraqi nationals,” explained Jewett, who spoke of the experience very matter-of-factly. “I’m not gonna leave my buddy sitting there.”

The EOD sailor he saved has already recovered from his wounds and went back to duty only four weeks after the ambush.

“It was my job,” Jewett said about dealing with explosives. “Good training has a lot to do with our success.”

Jewett’s parents flew in from his hometown of Tucson, Ariz., for the ceremony and were given a front row seat at the medal pinning.

Ralph Jewett, Justin’s father, who served in the Navy 40 years ago and was stationed at NAS Whidbey in the 1950s, said, “I’m real proud of him and what he’s done.”

Rear Adm. William French, Commander of Navy Region Northwest, pinned the medal on Jewett during a brief ceremony at the EOD Unit 11 at the Seaplane Base.

French was visibly proud of his sailors, saying of their role in the war: “What we’re doing over there is good work ... what all of you took part in helps keep America safe.”

Jewett, who entered the Navy in August of 2001, is only in mid-career, having re-enlisted recently through 2010. He can expect to return to Iraq for another tour.

“The mission continues,” said Adm. French. “This (unit’s) operational tempo is such that we will return to Iraq.”

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