MSG Daniel Keller – Hero On and Off the Battlefield

123rd Air Wing photo

MSG Daniel Keller was awarded the Air Force Cross in 2019 for his actions on the battlefield in Afghanistan. On Saturday, June 12, he was awarded the Airman’s Medal for his actions at home. He has been a lifesaver both on and off the battlefield.

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November 16, 2018 Louisville, Kentucky

On the way home after work, MSG Daniel Keller came upon a traffic accident in which involved two vehicles, one of which was an SUV that had caught on fire. after helping a man and his son out of the first vehicle, he enlisted the aid of bystanders to stop traffic on the narrow bridge so that he could extract the crash victim from the burning vehicle.

The cloud of smoke in the burning SUV forced MGT Daniel Keller to hold his breath. He broke out the back window and entered the burning SUV, but found that the unconscious man’s foot was caught.

“I tried to squeeze in the back window and was going to drag him out over the seat and through the back,” Keller said. “But the way his foot was lodged under the steering wheel in the front, I couldn’t get him that way — and the smoke was really filling up the car, so I knew we had to try and get him out through the side or another way.”

With the help of a woman who witnessed the wreck, Keller executed a plan to squeeze in between the burning car and the bridge railing to successfully extract the driver through a window. As Keller moved the man to the other side of the crash site, away from the fire, he suddenly heard the woman call for help. He returned to the burning SUV to discover she had become stuck in the narrow space between the car and the bridge. With some maneuvering, Keller was able to pull the woman free from the wreckage as the vehicle continued to burn.

At that point, Keller and the woman began to perform CPR on the still-unconscious victim. Then Keller heard gunshots.

“I heard an explosion and thought, ‘That sounds like a gunshot,’” Keller recalled. “Then there were a few other bursts, and I knew there were rounds going off.”

He quickly realized that ammunition inside the vehicle had begun to “cookoff” — combust and explode — as the fire in the engine block grew. Keller successfully moved the woman and everyone on site to safe cover behind his truck, away from the flames and explosions. He then continued providing medical care until local emergency responders arrived on the scene.

123rd Air Wing Statement

For his actions that day, MSG Keller received the Airman’s Medal, the highest award for action off the battlefield. But he was no stranger to receiving awards, since he had already received the Air Force’ second highest award for valor: the Air Force Cross.

August 16, 2017 – On the Battlefield in Afghanistan

While serving as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller in 2017, then Tech Sgt Keller and his unit came under attack from 350 ISIS fighters. When the troops hit an IED, it killed 4 and wounded 31, including Tech Sgt Keller, who suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. But that didn’t stop him.

Keller helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” according to the award citation. When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading the casualties.

Once the helicopter departed, the ground force commander aborted the mission. In spite of his injuries, Keller loaded wounded personnel into vehicles and volunteered to walk 2 1/2 kilometers back to a combat outpost, escorting other wounded teammates. During this movement, he repulsed a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and simultaneously passing enemy positions to another joint terminal attack controller, allowing friendly forces to break contact. After arriving back at the outpost, Keller was evacuated for his injuries.

“His personal courage, quick actions and tactical expertise whilst under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action, and resulted in an estimated 50 enemy killed in action,” the citation said.

123rd Air Force Wing statement 2019

MSG Daniel Keller takes his job seriously, trains, and works to better himself so that he can handle whatever may come. And he is not afraid to move toward the danger, doing his best to confront it.


Featured photo: Brig. Gen. Hal Lamberton (left), the adjutant general for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, pins the Airman’s Medal to the uniform of Master Sgt. Daniel Keller, a combat controller in the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., June 12, 2021. Keller earned the award for heroism in recognition of his actions to save human life following a traffic accident near Louisville in 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Horton)

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