2005 airforce Times
Honorable Mentions

Master Sergeant David Blakley

141st Air Control Squadron, Puerto Rico Air National Guard

Blakley braved dark, 40-degree water to save fellow passengers of a water taxi that flipped in Baltimore Harbor in March 2004.

He rescued a crewmate and a woman who had drifted from the boat while fellow guardsmen pulled people from the water.

Deployed for Operation Noble Eagle, Blakeley and three other guardsmen were returning from a tour of Fort McHenry when a fast-moving thunderstorm hit. Staff Sgt. Luis Nazario said Blakeley was the last passenger lifted from the water.

"Under that emergency situation, he was able to keep his leadership," Nazario said. "We don't have any doubt that he's got what he needs to hold that rank."

At home, Blakeley volunteers as a handyman for his church and serves on a sports committee at his sons' school.

Senior Airman John Chege

1st Logistics Readiness Squadron, Langley Air Force Base

Chege was the lead driver in a convoy to Tikrit, Iraq, last summer when a roadside bomb exploded beneath his truck, killing his gunner.

Despite numb legs and collapsed lungs, Chege had to be held down; he wanted to help his squadron disable an oncoming car charging at them, his supervisor said.

Chege, a Kenyan citizen, lost five friends in the bombing of the U.S. embassy in 1998. That played a role in his enlistment "to be a part of people making a difference and try to stop the terrorism," he said.

Chege received a Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal. He was back on duty in four months. Prior to his deployment, he volunteered with Adopt-A-Highway and at a local veteran's hospital.