September 6, 1961: 6515th Maintainer Performs Heroic Act

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  • 6515th Flight Line Maintenance Squadron

An alert aircraft mechanic with the 6515th Flight Line Maintenance Squadron averted a major catastrophe by removing a burning oxygen cart from the vicinity of several aircraft being serviced. Airman First Class Sammy A. Williamson later was awarded the Airmen’s Medal for his feat.

The Airman’s Medal is an individual decoration of the United States Air Force. The medal was established on July 6, 1960 and awarded to those service members or those of a friendly nation who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Air Force, distinguish themselves by a heroic act, usually at the voluntary risk of his or her life not involving actual combat. The saving of a life or the success of the voluntary heroic act is not essential.  The Airman’s Medal was authorized on August 10, 1956 to replace the U.S. Army's Soldier's Medal which had also been awarded to qualifying Air Force personnel since September 26, 1947.  According to Air Force Instruction 36-2803, The Secretary of the Air Force, Personnel Council approved or disapproved recommendations for Airman's Medals requiring Secretary of the Air Force approval and determined upon approval, entitlement to 10 percent increase in retirement pay for the Airman's Medal when awarded to enlisted members for extraordinary heroism.  Besides the Airman's Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and the Coast Guard Medal are also considered to be the equivalent of the Soldier's Medal. Additional awards of the Airman's Medal are denoted by oak leaf clusters.  The first recipient of the Airman's Medal was Captain John Burger, U.S. Air Force, who was awarded the medal at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, on July 21, 1960, for heroism performed on September 9, 1959.

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