KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Eight
airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard were honored
with prestigious medals January 12, 2014 for their heroism and
meritorious service in Afghanistan, where they engaged enemy
forces in lethal combat and helped build a sustainable
Eight airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing are honored with prestigious medals during a ceremony held Jan. 12, 2014, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. The awards, which include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal with Valor and the Air Force Combat Action Medal, recognize their heroism and meritorious service in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air National
Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Horton)
The adjutant general of the
Commonwealth of Kentucky, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini,
presented the medals during a ceremony held before a
standing-room-only audience of more than 400 coworkers,
friends and family at the 123rd Airlift Wing. The
decorations, all earned for recent deployments in support of
Operation Enduring Freedom, included the Distinguished
Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal with Valor and the Air
Force Combat Action Medal.
Crosses are awarded to members of the U.S. military who
distinguish themselves in combat by heroism or extraordinary
achievement while participating in an aerial flight. Bronze
Star Medals are earned for heroic or meritorious achievement
in connection with military operations against an armed
enemy, while Air Force Combat Action Medals are awarded for
active participation in combat, having been under direct and
hostile fire or physically engaging hostile forces with
direct and lethal fire.
“One of the best parts of my
job is recognizing the unbelievable accomplishments of our
Kentucky National Guard servicemen and women,” Tonini told
the audience. “This ceremony certainly celebrates the
accomplishments of these award recipients, but it also is a
reflection of what I think is the best damn airlift wing in
the United States Air Force.
“It's hard to stop and
reflect on our achievements when we've been moving so fast,
so often over the last 12 years. Well, today we have that
chance to pause, to reflect and to celebrate the
accomplishments of these eight airmen.”
Tingle, a combat rescue officer assigned to the wing's 123rd
Special Tactics Squadron, earned the Distinguished Flying
Cross for extraordinary achievement while participating in
an aerial flight over Afghanistan on May 26, 2011.
“On that date, (Tingle) was the lead combat rescue officer
for a harrowing rescue mission into Shorbak District,
Kandahar province, where a squad of United States Army
Pathfinders had been ambushed by multiple improvised
explosive devices,” according to the award citation.
“Considering many factors during the challenging flight
through reduced visibility into mountainous terrain, he
aided in formulating a plan to perform multiple (personnel
extractions) over a still-active minefield where a
critically-wounded soldier, two isolated soldiers and 10
killed in action were stranded,” the citation said.
Tingle provided armed over-watch and searched for enemy
triggermen as he hoisted the first patient into the
helicopter. While he worked to recover the team leader and a
second patient, the helicopter experienced a sudden loss of
power and came within two feet of ground impact. As the
formation sped back to Kandahar Airfield, Tingle assisted in
providing life-saving patient care.
decision making and calm demeanor ensured the safety of his
pararescue team and ultimately saved the lives of two United
States soldiers,” the citation said.
The next two
airmen to be honored are combat controllers assigned to the
123rd Special Tactics Squadron. Combat controllers are
FAA-certified air traffic controllers who deploy undetected
into hostile environments to establish assault zones or
airfields while simultaneously conducting air traffic
control, fire support, command and control, direct action,
counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian
assistance and special reconnaissance.
The first of
the two combat controllers, Tech. Sgt. Jeff Kinlaw, earned a
Bronze Star Medal with Valor for heroism while engaged in
ground operations against the enemy near Kamdesh Village,
Nuristan province, from April 11-16, 2012. On April 12,
while serving as the primary Joint Terminal Attack
Controller for a combined United States Special Forces team
and an Afghanistan Commando unit, Kinlaw battled Taliban
fighters for 14 hours.
“On this day, a
highly-motivated enemy initiated a coordinated assault with
small-arms, medium machine-gun and sniper fire,” the
citation said. "Kinlaw voluntarily and continuously placed
himself in plain sight of the enemy to protect the lives of
his teammates. When the Taliban advance initiated, he
surrendered his protected position and bounded through open
terrain to support a pinned-down element in dire need of
“During the heaviest volleys of enemy fire,
Sgt. Kinlaw low-crawled to unprotected areas in order to
ensure the supporting aircraft could successfully identify
and engage well-hidden insurgent fighting positions,” the
citation said. “Using his hand-held laser marker, he
coordinated multiple air-to-ground attacks on strongholds
within 100 meters of his position.
“Later during the
enemy advance, while continuing to control air strikes, he
again surrendered cover and went into the direct line of
enemy fire to locate a suitable helicopter landing zone to
evacuate the wounded in action. Sgt. Kinlaw remained exposed
until the extraction was complete.”
14-hour attack, Kinlaw successfully engaged seven enemy
fighting positions and three Taliban-dominated structures,
killed 18 insurgents and weakened the adversary's advance.
The second combat controller to be honored, Tech. Sgt.
Robert Bonello, earned a Bronze Star Medal with Valor for
heroism while engaged in ground operations against the enemy
in Faryab province on April 14, 2012.
On that date,
Bonello served as the primary Joint Terminal Attack
Controller assigned to an Army Special Forces Team. While
conducting a time-sensitive air assault mission, his team
was directly engaged by enemy forces. Bonello “skillfully
prosecuted targets with the air assets overhead” and then
proceeded to execute another time-sensitive mission when his
team was pinned down by a barrage of heavy machine-gun fire,
the citation said.
“After an interpreter and an
Afghan Commando were wounded, Sgt. Bonello broke cover,
pulled the critically wounded interpreter to cover, and
relayed a request for close-air support and a medical
evacuation,” according to the citation. “Although Sgt.
Bonello was under direct fire for over three hours, he
flawlessly directed a coordinated attack consisting of four
500-pound bombs, two Hellfire missiles, and multiple strafes
from fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. His courage and
technical expertise saved the lives of his teammates and
resulted in 16 confirmed enemy killed in action.”
Bonello also was awarded a second Bronze Star Medal on
Sunday, for meritorious achievement while engaged in ground
combat against the enemy from Nov. 16, 2011, to May 1, 2012.
During this time, Bonello served as the primary Joint
Terminal Attack Controller attached to an Army Special
While conducting deliberate clearing
operations in remote areas across northern Afghanistan, he
controlled 160 rotary- and fixed-wing assets and conducted
40 combat missions, including 12 helicopter assaults,
according to the citation.
“Sgt. Bonello also
controlled 30 helicopter landing zone sorties and four
medical evacuations resulting in the life-saving treatment
of three wounded Afghan Commandos and a local national
interpreter,” the citation said. “On five different
occasions, Sgt. Bonello was decisively engaged by enemy
forces. During each engagement, he calmly and methodically
coordinated intimidating displays of airpower to decimate
the enemy with limited collateral damage and no civilian
casualties. His courage and technical expertise saved the
lives of his teammates on multiple occasions and resulted in
47 confirmed enemy killed in action.”
Of the five
remaining honorees on Sunday, four hail from a variety of
career fields but were all deployed to Afghanistan as part
of the Kentucky National Guard's Agribusiness Development
Team V, a multidisciplinary group whose mission was to
foster a sustainable agriculture-based economy.
Col. Dallas Kratzer II earned a Bronze Star Medal for
meritorious achievement as the executive officer and
Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team liaison officer,
Forward Operating Base Pasab, Kandahar province, from Nov.
25, 2012, to Oct.1, 2013.
“Lt. Col. Kratzer excelled
at all levels as one of the key senior leaders for this
42-person agriculture development team, and was the driving
force behind the tremendous successes of this team in
expanding the capabilities and influence of Government of
the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan officials in six
key-terrain districts,” the citation said.
conducted over 300 combat missions in areas previously
deemed too kinetic for agribusiness operations, and was
engaged numerous times with harassing small-arms fire while
on combat patrols throughout the province. Falling back on
their training, they responded appropriately and flawlessly
each time, without any incidents or rules-of-engagement
violations. Furthermore, under his direction, (Agribusiness
Development Team V) implemented a high school-level
after-school agriculture program in three districts,
reaching over 2,500 students. Through a coordinated effort
with Kandahar University, district education administrators
and educators were trained and equipped with resources and
knowledge to raise a new generation of Afghan youth prepared
to meet the agriculture challenges.”
forged an important relationship with the provincial
veterinarian, launching a Para-Veterinary Village Outreach
Program — the first of its kind in Kandahar. This program
educated and equipped local para-veterinarians and Afghan
National Army Special Forces medics with a sustainable
animal healthcare program that impacted thousands of
animals, meeting the needs of an under-served sector of the
Afghan population and moving them to a higher level of
independence in livestock care.
Master Sgt. James
Oliver earned a Bronze Star Medal for meritorious
achievement as the Maiwand District Team noncommissioned
officer in charge and Regional Command South Stability
Division liaison officer, Forward Operating Base Pasab,
Kandahar province, from Dec. 1 2012, to Oct. 1, 2013.
Oliver excelled while assigned as liaison officer during
the first four months of his tour, establishing linkages and
developing key relationships directly impacting Agribusiness
Development Team V's ability to plan and execute missions at
the highest levels, his citation said.
completion of his (liaison officer) duties, Master Sgt.
Oliver became the Maiwand District NCOIC, where he quickly
integrated into his new assignment and played a major role
in the success of the team,” according to the citation. “He
excelled at educating and mentoring Maiwand District
government officials, to include the district governor and
the district director of Agriculture, Irrigation and
Livestock. His mentorship and stalwart dedication to duty
energized previously non-functioning government officials,
spurring them on to reach a higher level of sufficiency,
significantly improving their capabilities to effectively
manage agribusiness programs in their district.”
During the deployment, Oliver coordinated several
village-level operations, including agribusiness training
events and shuras that “supported counterinsurgency efforts
by fostering an environment conducive to improved
private-sector production and marketing,” the citation said.
“He employed his skills to mentor, teach and advise
local maliks and village elders on sustainable irrigation
and canal-restoration projects, creating a workable model
that will carry forward long after coalition forces depart
the theater of operations,” according to the citation.
Oliver also conducted more than 40 combat missions
throughout the province, including operations into villages
previously deemed too kinetic to conduct agribusiness
Master Sgt. Zakiya Taylor earned a Bronze
Star Medal for meritorious achievement as the Panjwai
District Team noncommissioned officer in charge, Kandahar
province, from Dec. 1, 2012, to Oct. 1, 2013.
educated and mentored Panjwai District government officials,
including the district governor, district Development
Assembly chairman and the district director of Agriculture,
Irrigation and Livestock, leading to the establishment of
educational programs in a previously unused extension
center, according to the citation.
The facility soon
developed into a demonstration farm and para-veterinary
clinic, “creating a sustainable model of government
efficiency and an invaluable resource for the district,” the
“Master Sgt. Taylor leveraged her
experience as a leader and food preservation specialist to
engage Panjwai District inhabitants on multiple levels,” the
citation continued. “Leading and coordinating over 83
agribusiness training events and shuras in Panjwai, she
fostered an environment of cooperation and community between
the local villages, Government of the Islamic Republic of
Afghanistan officials and (the International Security
Assistance Force), extending counterinsurgency efforts by
supporting private sector agribusinesses.”
also conducted more than 70 combat missions, including over
45 village-level operations to the Horn of Panjwai — an area
previously deemed too kinetic to conduct agribusiness
Tech. Sgt. Nathan Steele earned a Bronze
Star Medal for meritorious achievement as the Zharay
District Team noncommissioned officer in charge and civil
engineering project manager, Forward Operating Base Pasab,
Kandahar province, from Dec. 1, 2012, to Aug. 28, 2013.
Steele was directly responsible for mentoring the
district director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock
and other government officials in Zharay District, including
the district governor and director of education's
“Leveraging his experience in project
management and finance, he was instrumental in planning and
renovating the $3 million Zharay District Education Center
and Demonstration Farm, restoring it to viability with
crop-rotation schedules, fruit and vegetable plots and
functioning agricultural equipment,” the citation said.
“In coordination with U.S. Department of State and U.S.
Department of Agriculture, he successfully facilitated
multiple district-wide agricultural shuras, bringing
hundreds of local farmers together at the ZDEC Farm for the
Steele, working hand-in-hand with the
Zharay director of education's representative, developed and
launched the district's first after-school youth
agricultural program, successfully spearheading the
negotiations and program agreements between Kentucky
Agribusiness Development Team V and three Kandahar
University instructors. He also sponsored a three-day
seminar for more than 30 Zharay District middle and high
school teachers, training them on the curriculum and how to
implement the program with their students.
Sgt. Steele designed the program using a three-pillar
educational approach of animal husbandry, water science and
plant/crop science,” the citation said. “The district
governor lauded this program as being the single most
important educational effort completed in his district,
creating a way-ahead for expanding agricultural education
and increasing literacy to over 5,000 students.”
Steele conducted more than 46 combat patrol missions in the
Zharay District and served as a member of the Security
Forces team, completing 32 combat patrols as a driver,
gunner or dismounted team member.
During one of his
tours as a security forces “Guardian Angel,” a civilian
protest resulted in gunfire that injured numerous Afghan
civilians. Without hesitation, Steele volunteered to help
treat several local nationals, and his efforts were credited
with saving the life of a man with a severe gunshot wound to
Sunday's final award recipient is an
explosive ordnance disposal technician from the Kentucky Air
Guard's 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron. Tech. Sgt.
Christopher Terrell earned the Air Force Combat Action Medal
for active participation in combat in connection with
military operations on June 14, 2011.
On that date,
Terrell's team was responding to an improvised explosive
device called in by Afghan forces in Ghazni province when
the last vehicle in his convoy hit an IED. Immediately after
the detonation, enemy forces engaged both the disabled
vehicle and Terrell's vehicle.
Being the “gunner” for
his team, Terrell returned fire, suppressing the enemy while
other vehicles maneuvered into position to support the
disabled vehicle and assist in defense. While taking fire
himself, Terrell pushed the enemy back and wounded at least
one of the attackers before they disengaged and fled the
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Kentucky National
Guard has deployed more than 16,000 soldiers and airmen in
the support of military operations around the world.
By U.S. Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Joshua Horton
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