In high school, Ronnie "Bo" Brickey, a thrill-seeking rodeo bull rider from Oregon, was looking for a career that would quench his thirst for excitement.
Brickey found his path when a neighbor's brother, an Air Force recruiter, urged him to look into explosive ordnance disposal.
Since joining the Air Force in 1999, Technical Sgt. Brickey has been on 500 combat missions and has rendered 200 incendiary explosive devices safe.
Brickey was recently presented his fourth Bronze Star at the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School, Hurlburt Field, Fla., where he works as an instructor advising on terrorist capabilities and improvised explosive devices.
The Bronze Star is awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement or service in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United States.
Brickey was awarded this fourth star for exceptionally meritorious service as a team leader during his most recent deployment to Afghanistan.
Colonel Eric Ray, commandant of USAFSOS, presented Brickey his Bronze Star in front of his wife, Miko Brickey, and three children - son Blake, 9, and daughters Lilly, 4, and Daisy, 6 months.
"Sergeant Brickey will tell you 'I was just doing my job,' but the job he chooses to perform is vastly different from other jobs," Ray said. "You, Sergeant Brickey, choose the EOD motto, 'initial success or total failure' as your career. You are truly the quiet professional, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that."
As team leader, Brickey was responsible for disposal of more than 6,000 pounds of unexploded ordnance items, 70 improvised explosive devices and 24 weapons caches.
He successfully disarmed a sophisticated IED with an anti-tampering device that would have prompted detonation with movement in excess of three millimeters.
Brickey was involved in more than 20 troops-in-combat situations. He performed lifesaving medical treatment when two Army soldiers he was patrolling with were struck by an IED. In less than five minutes, he cleared the area of secondary devices, reached the soldiers and administered care.
Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Breece was on a mission with Brickey when he was struck by an IED. Brickey said he remembers seeing Breece fly up and down, administering immediate medical care and then carrying him 300 meters through grape rows back to the MEDEVAC.
"Carrying him to the MEDEVAC felt like it took forever, but, in reality, it only took a few minutes," he said.
Months later, Brickey received a Facebook message from Breece that read:
I wanted to write you earlier, but I didn't know your name, and plus I've been really busy. I want to thank you for helping out when I was hurt. It's kind of foggy now, what happened, but I think you helped to save my life. I was extremely scared I was going to die, but you stayed by my side reassuring me till I got on the bird. Thank you so much.
Brickey said receiving a fourth Bronze Star as a result of his leadership is truly an honor.
"I really appreciate it," he said. "During my first two deployments, I was only a staff sergeant. There were people who outranked me, but I was still given team leader duties, so that made me feel good."
Brickey has become so seasoned as a result of his experiences that it takes him about 20 minutes from the point at which he finds an IED to the point at which it has been cleared, he said.
He passes this expertise and on-the-job training from multiple deployments to his EOD team members and his students at USAFSOS.
Both Blake and Lilly Brickey said they were proud to watch their dad receive his fourth Bronze Star.
Though her husband has spent much time away from his family, it is rewarding to see he is making a difference, Miko Brickey said.
"It is an honor for me to watch him succeed and to see all of the hard work he puts into his job."
Article by Rachel Arroyo, Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs