Gregory Jones was working in TACOM Life Cycle Management Command’s Integrated Logistics Support Center in Warren, Michigan, when he deployed to Afghanistan in early 2011. On March 9, 2017, Jones received the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom.
He was a training instructor for the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, or CROWS, the system that enables gunners inside a vehicle to aim and fire a weapon mounted on top of the vehicle. It was his first time deploying as a civilian employee but he had been to the Middle East five times during his seven-year Navy career as a weapons explosives gunner’s mate.
In addition to teaching users how to operate CROWS, his duties included making field repairs on the system – which is what he was on his way to do for Navy special operations forces on May 12, 2011. After a three-hour convoy from Kandahar heading toward one of the 10 camps at which he was responsible for maintenance, the RG-33 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle in which he was riding ran over a roadside bomb, seriously injuring three of the five crew members and passengers. A medical evacuation helicopter airlifted Jones and the two others for emergency medical treatment. Everyone survived, but Jones’ right leg had been shattered.
“The RG-33 is probably the reason why I’m still alive,” he said. “If we had been in a Humvee, no one would have survived. There was a rumor that we actually hit a second (explosive). We were in the air for about three seconds. When we landed the axles were barely hanging on and the engine was about 50 feet away.”
He was in the hospital a total of less than two weeks in Afghanistan, Germany and Washington, D.C., before returning home to Northeastern Ohio to continue his recovery and rehabilitation. One doctor told him he would not walk again for five months, but after designing his own physical therapy regimen – mostly in the pool at his apartment complex – he was not only walking but also back to work within three months. He voluntarily deployed back to Afghanistan in January 2012, less than a year after his injuries.
Although he still feels debilitating pain from his injuries to this day, Jones volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan one more time before he resigned his position in July 2015 for something closer to his Ohio home.
Nearly two years later, Jones returned to TACOM to receive the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom. Maj. Gen. Clark W. LeMasters Jr., TACOM LCMC commanding general, presented the medal to Jones in TACOM’s ceremonial lobby in front of Jones’ family, friends and former colleagues.
LeMasters emphasized the important role Army civilians play in theatre and the risks they face. “I think it is very important among this team that the total Army recognizes the contributions … of the team effort that goes into a combat zone to keep soldiers alive,” LeMasters said. “To have a civilian employee of this command training another service on the system that the Army produced and fielded is quite a remarkable thing. On behalf of this nation and this command, thank you for what you did while you were here. I’m proud to present this to you,” he said.
The Defense of Freedom medal was established to acknowledge Department of Defense civilian employees killed or wounded in the line of duty, similar to the Purple Heart for uniformed military members. According to a 2001 memorandum signed by the assistant secretary of defense, it “symbolizes the extraordinary fidelity and essential service of the department’s civilian workforce who are an integral part of DOD and who contribute to the preservation of national security.”