ABILENE, Texas -

Two Dyess Air Force Base airmen were awarded medals of honor in a special ceremony Friday. 

Staff Sgt. Erica McRell received a Bronze Star Medal for her work in Afghanistan and Staff Sgt. Rafael Rhodes received a Purple Heart and an Air Force Combat Action Medal for injuries he received while deployed in Afghanistan.

McRell worked with Army Special Forces in Afghanistan to clear the path for soldiers with the help of her K9, Johnny.

"The fact that she was with this all-male group really out in front of all of them protecting them is kind of a first," Maj. Sarah Babbitt, commander of the 7th Security Forces Squadron, said..

McRell was the first female military-working dog handler from Dyess Air Force base to embed with Army Special Forces.

McRell and her dog detected more than 50 bombs and saved countless lives. For that she received a Bronze Star.

The Bronze Star Medal is awarded for acts of heroism while in a combat zone.

Rhodes was also deployed with his K9, Nero, in Afghanistan. While overseas, his vehicle was hit by a bomb and insurgents fired upon him. 

"It was a pretty scary time for us because the initial reports we didn't really know the severity of his injuries only that he was in an IED blast and taken back to the airbase for medical care." Babbitt said.

Rhodes suffered a traumatic brain injury and his dog's eardrums were blown out, but he made it back to Dyess where he received a Purple Heart and a Combat Action Medal.

The Purple Heart is awarded if you are wounded in action and the Combat Action Medal is given to an airman directly engaged with an enemy.

According to Babbitt, Rhodes and McRell would both gladly do it again.

"Talking to them both, they'd go back there tomorrow if we asked them. They’re heroes to me. They should be heroes to everybody and their canines too," Babbitt said.