Thursday, December 18, 2008

COMMENTARY>>62nd AS pilot earns bronze star

By Senior Airman Jason Elkins
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Lt. Col. Paul Stephenson, 62nd Airlift Squadron formal training unit instructor pilot, received the Bronze Star Medal at a ceremony Monday.

During the ceremony, Col. Charles Hyde, 314th Airlift Wing commander, expressed his pride.

“It’s not surprising that when we send someone over to mentor another nation in the midst of a war on how to put together their squadron that we chose someone who knew how to take care of their people,” said Colonel Hyde.

The Bronze Star medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the military of the United States after Dec. 6, 1941, distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement.

“Any kind of award like this is not a reflection on you particularly; it’s a reflection on your unit and how well your unit does. I had the great fortune to work with some outstanding people in interesting times – notjust Americans but also Iraqis,” said Colonel Stephenson.

“The Iraqis are good people. The folks that I worked with on a day-to-day basis are heroes in their country, even if their country doesn’t quite recognize it yet,” he added. “Many of them had to come to work in disguise in order to not to be seen by the militia and taken prisoner, but they’re coming to work and building their country and they’re developing a place where their kids can grow and go to school and improve. They’re very happy that we were there.”

Colonel Stephenson performed as Senior Advisor and Commander, 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group Operating Location-Alpha, Coalition Air Force Training Team, Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, from Sept. 25, 2007 to Sept. 24, 2008, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Colonel Stephenson helped rebuild the operational capability of the Iraqi Air Force’s 70th Reconnaissance Squadron. He advised and mentored over 130 Iraqi officers and warrant officers on all aspects of operations, training, maintenance, force protection and logistical support and established a rapport between the Iraqi Air Force and Coalition forces, enabling the 70th RS to expand mission support to coalition operations.

Colonel Stephenson also coordinated air support to Iraqi Army troops in contact with the enemy during Operation Charge of the Knights, the Iraqi Security Force’s effort to wrest control of Basra from outlaw militia elements.

“It’s a real honor and one that reflects more on the folks that I work with and advise than on me,” said Colonel Stephenson.


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