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Air Force reservist gets chance to prove himself

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. John Gordinier
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
When Senior Master Sgt. Scott Clements drives around the flightline here supervising crew chiefs and making sure jets are ready to fly, people aren't likely to give him a second look.

That changes when he puts on a pair of Air Force physical training shorts.

"I was in a motorcycle accident four years ago," said Sergeant Clements, 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit productions supervisor deployed from the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah. "The accident was severe enough that the doctors had to do a below-the-knee amputation on my left leg.

"I didn't even think twice about the decision because I've been around an amputee for 20 years," he added. "My daughter, Amber, had a birth defect, and at 15 months old she had to have her right foot amputated. I know she can do anything, so I didn't hesitate when the doctor was skeptical about being able to save the leg. I just wanted to move on; however, I did not realize at the time that it was going to possibly jeopardize my career as an Air Force reservist."

Sergeant Clements said the Air Force wanted to medically discharge him from the Air Force Reserve after 25 years of service.

"My biggest deal was, 'don't throw me out. Give me a chance to rehabilitate and improve myself and prove I am still able to do my job,'" he said.

The senior master sergeant said he was able to return to his civil service job as an air reserve technician within four months after the accident but was not able to wear the uniform yet. He would have to undergo a review process for another 10 months before he could wear the uniform again.

"I think it was the old stigma that if someone loses a limb, they are automatically out," Sergeant Clements said. "But now, it's the new military where if someone can do their job, they should be able to keep that job. Granted, if I still had to crawl around on jets, I might not be able to keep my job; but now, I am a supervisor. The military needs this (pointing to his head) more than they need this (pointing to his prosthetic leg)."

The Riverdale, Utah, native said he traveled from Hill AFB to Lackland AFB, Texas, to stand in front of a three-panel medical board.

"The board asked me how having a prosthetic leg has affected me and my life," he said. "I told them I can still do most things that anyone else can do. I may have to rethink it or it may take me a little longer but I can still do most things."

For example, Sergeant Clements told the board he had just returned from playing golf for five days with a bunch of his friends. He then gave the board members his score to prove that the prosthetic is not crimping his golf game.

"My golfing buddies tell me I play better now than I did before because I don't try to kill the ball when I swing now," he said.

The board reinstated Sergeant Clements, but he had to deploy where there is a hospital that can meet his needs or get approval from the wing commander at the installation.

"I don't really need any special attention," he said. "All I really need is an Allen wrench to tighten up my foot every once in a while. Most of the guys here are used to it now. I just throw my leg up on the bench and tighten up a few screws."

"I think the reason he took on those challenges is a testament to his character, and love for his country and his job," said Chief Master Sgt. John Tomsick, 419th AMXS superintendent, and Sergeant Clements' supervisor. "It really could have been easy to just retire and move on but I believe he felt like he had more to give and teach the people around him. I still learn from him."

While deployed here, Sergeant Clements is helping others who are going through the same ordeals of losing a limb.

A couple days ago, a captain and a major from the Balad Air Force Theater Hospital saw Sergeant Clements at the dining facility in PT gear, and asked if he would come over to the hospital.

"I got the tour of the facility, and I met a couple of Iraqi teenagers in there who are amputees as well," he said. "Through a translator, I would talk to them and I would walk for them to show them that it will be all right and that this is not the end of the world."

Sergeant Clements said he also attends physical therapy sessions for Iraqis and military personnel to show them the exercises, and how to take care of an amputated limb.

"If someone who has lost their limb sees me walking around them and sees that I'm even in the military, maybe that will give them some hope that not all is lost," he said. "They will hopefully think, 'Well, if he can do it, I can do it.'"

"Senior Master Sgt. Clements' ability to move on with very few setbacks considering his injuries is a true reflection on what kind of person he is," Chief Tomsick said. "He never quit and is still moving forward."

"I still ride motorcycles," Sergeant Clements said. "When I was recouping, it made me sick to watch my buddies all go off on their long rides. Last summer, I went with three other guys and we went on a 3,000-mile trip to the West Coast.

"If I'm gonna go, I'm gonna go doing something I love." (Air Force Reserve Command News Service)