Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

TOP STORY >>Security specialist killed in Baghdad

Leader staff writer

A roadside bomb killed a military member from Little Rock Air Force in Baghdad Monday while he was in a three-vehicle convoy. Three other airmen, from other military bases, were injured in the attack.

Staff Sgt. John T. Self, 29, of Pontotoc, Miss., a member of the 314th Security Forces Squadron, had been in Iraq since September training Iraqi police officers.

It was his third tour of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to Maj. Allan Fiel, 314th SFS commander. “He had actually volunteered for this assignment while he was still on his second tour because it was a different type of mission.”
Fiel said each tour is about six months long, preceded by four to six weeks of readiness training.

About 60 members of the 314th SFS are currently serving in Iraqi. “Our job is mostly detainee security,” explained CMSgt. Keith Morris, the squadron’s security force manager.

Self, who had no family in Arkansas, joined the Air Force in 1999 and had been stationed at the base since March 2004.
“We mourn his death,” Fiel said. “He was a great NCO (noncommissioned officer) and he loved doing what he was trained to do.”

Fiel said the sergeant was always aware of the dangers he faced as he carried out his mission in the Middle East. At a news briefing about Self’s death Tuesday, Fiel read an email from Self that the squadron had received shortly before his death. “As far as the heat of danger goes, every time a military member comes to the desert, they’re in the heat of danger…It’s my job to be in the heat of danger.

“Whether it’s looking for insurgents, guarding detainees, or sitting on a fence line, it’s all dangerous,” Self wrote.
Self “is a shining example of our airmen who truly place ‘service before self’ and he will be greatly missed,” Fiel said.
Self is the second member of LRAFB to be killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

SSgt. Dustin Peters, 25, of El Dorado, Kan., with the 314th Logistics Readiness Squadron was killed by a roadside bomb on July 11, 2005.

Self is the the sixth security forces member, Air Force wide, to be killed in the conflict, and the second Mississippi military member to be killed within a week. Self was a 1998 graduate of South Pontotoc High School, where he played trumpet in the marching band.

“He loved to deer hunt and fish and play computer games. He was a loving child. He was there for his family and friends,” said his mother, Jill Self. “I loved him very much and he’s going to be missed.” Funeral arrangements are pending.

Capt. David Faggard, with 314th Public Affairs, said the Air Force has 30,000 airmen deployed in support of 11 operations.
(Associated Press conribbuted to this report.)