Technical Sergeant Michelle Barefield
In January 2006, Tech. Sgt. Michelle Barefield once again packed her bags for a six-month combat tour in Iraq, less than a year after she returned home from her last deployment. The 18-year Air Force veteran and mother of two was no stranger to deployments. She had served multiple times in Southwest Asia and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician. However, this deployment was far from routine. Before it ended, she would survive three separate attacks, take part in a gun battle with insurgents, and take control of a scene after the death of a comrade.
Within days of arriving at Baghdad International Airport, Sergeant Barefield witnessed firsthand the violent death of a team member due to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). During a check ride with her outgoing team, the U.S. Army Tactical Operations Center requested they clear a road frequented by civilians. With one IED safely destroyed, her counterpart began a sweep for additional threats when a previously undetected device took his life. Without hesitation, Sergeant Barefield rendered aid to another injured team member and took control of the scene. With selfless dedication, she simultaneously organized a sweep for additional hazards, a post blast analysis of the device, and recovery of her fallen comrade’s remains. But this was just the beginning of the events Sergeant Barefield would encounter on this deployment.
While enroute to another reported IED, her convoy was targeted. Several vehicles hit IEDs including the one in which Sergeant Barfield was riding. She jumped into action, making sure her teammates were uninjured, initiating area safety measures and helping recover wounded comrades from the burning remains of the other vehicles. This would be the first of three IED attacks her team would survive.
Explosive devices were a reality she dealt with daily, but other threats lurked as well. On yet another day, during what appeared to be a routine IED mission, insurgents attacked the team with small arms fire. Sergeant Barefield did not hesitate. She returned fire while taking cover, allowing her fellow EOD members to return to the safety of the armored vehicle. Sergeant Barefield is a well-respected leader in the EOD career field because of her courage under fire and selfless dedication to the team.