Staff Sergeant Erica Cabiness McRell, is a military working canine trainer in the 7th Security Forces Squadron (SFS). She is also a former Bridge City High School student who has recently received a very prestigious award, The Bronze Star Medal; the fourth highest US Armed Forces individual military decoration. She was also named Security Forces Hero of the Week.

The Bronze Star Medal was established in February of 1944 to boost morale among troops and acknowledge brave and exceptional service in combat. By giving this extremely highly regarded award, the United States military honors individual members of the US Armed Forces for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service exhibited while in a combat zone.

McRell played a serious role in the careful planning and execution of over 100 combat patrols in southern Afghanistan. Leading the way through the mine fields was very risky and protection was limited. She was responsible for finding more than 50 improvised explosive devices (IED’s), saving countless lives and reducing terrorist activity significantly.

McRell, at 27 years of age, is the first female military working dog trainer, along with her canine comrade and friend, Jonny, to be aligned with an Army Special Forces unit.

McRell received her medal at an awards ceremony Jan. 24 at Dyess Air Force Base. Tech. Sgt. Rafael Rhodes, 7th SFS received the Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon for his bravery and service in Afghanistan, as well, at the ceremony. Welcome home.

Brig. Gen. Glen VanHerck, 7th Bomb Wing Commander praised them both saying, “These two defenders are heroes and warriors. They selflessly go down range to save lives without hesitation.” He also gave much deserved credit to the faithful military dogs that were there with their trainers during every event they encountered.

Military dogs have a motto: Faithful, Fearless and Forever. They proudly serve their country as fellow comrades in the field, bonding closely with their trainers. “They help to provide a secure atmosphere for thousands of deployed service members and millions of dollars in Department of Defense resources,” said McRell.

Mary Quebodeaux, McRell’s mother, of Deweyville, is very proud of her daughter’s accomplishments.

“Erica was never afraid of anything and she loves a challenge,” Mary said. “She loves animals and had a Doberman Pinscher  named Daphne she got on her 13th birthday that was her whole world.”

Her father, Lawrence Quebodeaux, Jr, now deceased “would have been so proud of her,” adds Mary.

Erica has one sister, Lauren, and a little boy, Liam, only 20 months old.

McRell excelled in high school cross country running, going to state competition at least twice.

“She still runs today.” Mary adds.

Just this week McRell participated in a 5K run in Abilene, where she makes her home now.  In the ‘Run or Die’ competition she came in a smooth 4th place. McRell gives credit to Bridge City Coach Rick Miller for encouraging her to be her best while participating in the athletics program at Bridge City. She attended BC school for seven years, before going to Deweyville where she graduated in 2005.

It wasn’t long after graduation McRell decided to join the military. She says her friend from BCHS, Josiah Thomas, had a major influence in her decision. They are still close friends today.

McRell trained in New Jersey then went straight to Afghanistan. Congratulations and a big “Thank you” go out to Staff Sgt. McRell and Sgt. Rhodes for being brave, enduring extreme discomfort and great hardship on behalf of your country and the welfare of others.