Shaw Airman awarded Bronze Star, Purple Heart

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Although Joshua Labott is only 21 years old, he has already seen and experienced more than most people will in their entire lives.

Senior Airman Joshua Labott, explosive ordinance disposal technician, entered the Air Force about four years ago right out of high school.

His original intention was to become an air traffic controller. After watching a video about EOD technicians, he changed his mind and career. Little did he know his choice would be a life-changing decision.

"He's one of those people, when you meet him you know there's something special," said Staff Sgt. Michael Pazley, EOD. "He is a great wingman to call a friend and comrade."

Airman Labott arrived at Shaw in July 2007. Since then he has been deployed twice. His latest deployment took him to the Arghandab, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, and changed his life forever.

On the morning of Jan. 19, 2010, Airman Labott's team received a call that there was an improvised explosive device in a school, he said. Around noon, a team of around 20 people went out on a dismounted patrol to take care of the IED. Along the way, an IED buried in the base of a wall exploded.

The captain in front of him and the team chief behind him were killed instantly. His lieutenant was critically injured and Airman Labott was thrown into a canal and knocked out for a short period of time.

"At first, I thought we were mortared," said Airman Labott, "but after the dust settled, I realized what happened. Everything went blank, and the only thing I could think of was working on the lieutenant. It was probably the most focused I've ever been."

At this moment all of his training and instinct kicked in, and he began performing first aid care on his lieutenant as his team began engaging in small-arms fire.

Soon after the attack, the helicopters came in to rescue them. Two were killed, the Army captain and the Air Force team chief. One Airman and four Soldiers were injured in the attack. The lieutenant survived and is currently at Walter Read Medical Center.

As a result of his actions during the attack, Airman Labott was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart.

Although he didn't know his choice to switch career field would alter his life, Airman Labott said he wouldn't go back and change anything.

"I love my job because at the end of the day, everything I do saves lives," he concluded.

Airman Labott pushes on and is motivated to continue in EOD, he said. He wants to teach the new Airmen who come in through his experiences.