BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- What actions or characteristics describe a hero? Would you recognize a hero if he or she were standing next to you or speaking with you?
Many have witnessed accounts of heroism reported through a variety of media sources, but what drives a person to perform heroic acts? Is it in their bloodline? Curious questions that may never provoke a similar response, however one fact will remain true: heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
U.S. Army Sgt. Zachary R. Berline stands just over six-feet-tall, squared shoulders and jaw. A college-educated man who speaks moderately slow, his words are direct and their meaning rarely misunderstood. Older than most of his fellow infantry team leaders assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2/10 Security Forces Assistance Brigade, Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, Berline enlisted after completing his bachelor’s degree.
"My recruiter was kind of surprised that I wanted to join the infantry," said Berline. "He said they saw it all the time though, guys who scored high on their entry exams, could pick any job in the Army, but insist on joining combat arms."
Berline continued to say not joining the infantry might be a decision he would live to regret.
Standing beside Berline in front of the 9/11 memorial located in the main courtyard of the Regional Command East Joint Operations Center on Bagram Air Field was Cpl. Jered R. Dominey.
Dominey is a soft spoken soldier who is of average size and works as an intelligence collector assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2/10 SFAB, FOB Sharana and describes himself as just another intelligence nerd.
Physically, these men are very different but they share common traits. The values the Army has instilled in these two Soldiers allowed them to execute their mission flawlessly. Their actions saved the lives of those around them, distinguishing them from their peers.
On May 27, 2013, Berline's infantry team came under heavy rocket fire, resulting in multiple Afghan National Army soldiers being wounded and structures dangerously close to an ammo supply point being set ablaze.
"It wasn't until the fifth day of our mission that things really hit home," said Berline. "We saw the incoming rockets hit the ANA side of the base and that's when we saw the fire."
With disregard for his own safety, Berline rushed to the aid of the ANA soldiers already attempting to put out the fire while his team followed closely behind.
"We gathered up our soldiers and rushed to help," said Berline. "We divided into teams, some set security, some tended to the injured, and others went to where the structures were burning."
On that day, the bonds between U.S. Soldiers and Afghan National Security Forces grew stronger.
"It really didn't matter if Americans or Afghans were in the bunkers, they needed help and we were going to provide that help," said Berline. "The success of the day was in the training; everyone helped that day, everyone wanted to be a part of this."
Berline received the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for his valorous actions that day as an infantry team leader, directing his team through combat operations while simultaneously performing life saving measures.
Keeping with military tradition and following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Dominey also received the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for saving the lives of multiple Coalition Force Soldiers during a direct and decisive engagement with an insider threat on Super FOB.
On June 8, 2013, Dominey stepped outside the wire for the first time, attending a meeting on the ANA side of Super FOB when he noticed something was not quite right.
"I noticed an Afghan soldier who was acting odd but, this was my first time out and I didn't really know what to do," said Dominey."It wasn't until he fired at us that I truly understood the gravity of the situation."
Engaging the enemy first was Dominey, who shot at the assailant multiple times, but the fight was not over.
"I linked up with Staff Sgt. Hart and we went to see if the threat was neutralized," said Dominey.
The threat was not neutralized and he continuously attempted to engage U.S. soldiers.
"We ended up re-engaging the enemy two more times before he stopped fighting back," said Dominey.
"I really think this will make my grandmother very proud," said Dominey. "My grandfather served in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam and had received the Bronze Star Medal for his actions; I just don't remember which war it was."
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, commanding general, Combined Joint Task Force - 101 and Regional Command East, presented the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device to both Soldiers during an awards ceremony, Sept. 18, 2013.