Four 819th RHS Airmen receive Bronze Stars; 11 earn AF Combat Action Medals
on Thursday, 21 August 2008

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by Senior Airman Eydie Sakura
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office

8/19/2008 - MALSTROM AFB, Mont. -- Four members of the 819th RED HORSE Squadron received Bronze Star Medals Aug. 14 for their efforts in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom October through April 2007, while 11 Airmen earned the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

All medals were presented by Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, Eighth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) commander, at the RED HORSE hangar before the squadron, family and friends.

"Coming before a group like this, and listening to the description of the actions taken to earn these medals, is really amazing," General Elder said. "We know there is great work being done and it really catches your attention."

The general said RED HORSE's capability to accomplish expeditionary construction has no match and no other country or service can do it like the people in RED HORSE.
"We cannot say enough about what you're contributing to the overall (war) effort," he said. "We sometimes lose sight of the reason we're over there, and it's to build a nation and help the Iraqis and Afghanis bring stability to their countries."

The Bronze Star is awarded to military servicemembers who distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight, in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.

Capt. Glenn Cameron
At his home station at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., Capt. Glenn Cameron is the 819th RHS airborne flight commander, but for six months in Iraq, he commanded a 32-person team from seven units comprised of eight Air Force Specialty Codes, as the 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron combat logistics convoy commander.

"There was a very dramatic shift in day-to-day activities," Captain Cameron said. "All RED HORSE troops are considered subject matter experts in engineering by virtue of being in RED HORSE; the airborne RED HORSE troops are required to match their tactical ability with their technical skill sets."

The airborne team trained for several weeks at different locations to ensure they had the required communication, weapons and driving skills needed to safely execute the mission of delivering engineering supplies throughout Iraq to keep RED HORSE construction projects on schedule, which was the squadron's primary mission.

"The 557th ERHS had the only completely self-supporting Air Force only (Combat Logistics Patrol) team that ran more than 5,000 miles in less than four months," the captain said. "We supplied the drivers, gunners and operators of heavy engineering equipment, anywhere and everywhere the HORSE had a presence in the (Area of Responsibility)."

Captain Cameron said every time his team exited the base's security gates in Iraq, he always feared and planned for the worst case scenarios because he realized no matter what happened, he would be responsible to answer to the families back home.

The Bronze Star Medal recipient took command of an improvised explosive device attack site and triaged wounded of his number one gun truck; established a security perimeter and was the on-scene commander for an Army M1A1 Abrams Tank recovery following an explosively formed penetrator; and maintained consistent leadership and stability of his team while encountering five separate IED attacks and five separate small arms fire attacks.

"It is not just the Army or Marine Corps on the ground out there in Iraq," he said. "There are Air Force troops on the ground operating in the same dangers and making great things happen for people of the U.S. Air Force as well as for the Iraqi people."

Capt. Josh Aldred
"I personally feel that ignorance is one of the greatest weapons of our enemies in Iraq and if we can teach 26 men to read and write, we helped take 26 men off the battlefield," said Capt. Josh Aldred, 557th ERHS site commander, and a Bronze Star Medal recipient.

In garrison, Captain Aldred is the 819th RHS chief of design, but in the AOR, he managed roughly six large construction projects simultaneously, with roughly 90 Airmen working for him at one site. One of these large projects was the Village of Hope, a trial program initiated by U.S. Army General Petraeus, the Multi-National Force-Iraq commander.

"Our primary mission was to provide job training in three different construction disciplines, such as masonry, plumbing and residential electrical," Captain Aldred said. "We trained 200 Iraqi men in Hawr Rajab, a small village 10 kilometers south of Baghdad. Once the training was complete, all men were put to work in (the village) rebuilding homes, schools and repairing some of the damaged infrastructure."

The captain said if the program was successful the intent was to develop similar programs throughout other villages in Iraq as the security situation improved.
"Hawr Rajab was picked as the first site because it was formerly an Al Qaeda stronghold," he said. "One of the things I am most proud of during my time in Hawr Rajab is our efforts to develop a literacy program for some of the local men in the village."

Of the 200 men who applied for work with the Village of Hope program, 26 of them could not read or write.

"By the time I left (the village), we had nearly half the class graduate from basic literacy course and move to the job training program," he said. "I was really blessed to have a great team in Iraq and none of the accomplishments in Hawr Rajab would have been possible without the efforts of each and every one of my Airmen."

While in the AOR, Captain Aldred also coordinated use of Department of State funds to rent well drilling equipment which provided drinking water to 5,000 local residents; developed and executed a $1.3 million force protection plan to keep projects on track despite supply, material and fuel limitations; and built ammunition holding areas and forward air refueling points while facilitating 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, missions to deny extremist freedom of movement.

Chief Master Sgt. Gary Stuckenschmidt
His daily job in the 819th RHS is the chief enlisted manager, and although his job title stayed the same while in the AOR, the focus and scope of his job took on a whole new meaning.

Chief Master Sgt. Gary Stuckenschmidt said being in a combat environment made his work critical to ensure the troops had proper equipment, supplies and uniform items needed to safely accomplish outside-the-wire taskings.

"Instead of focusing on 280 Airmen (in garrison) at one location, there were 560 people from 62 different units spread out across 14 locations throughout Iraq and Afghanistan," the chief said. "It was essential to maintain an even playing field when it came to personnel issues; without proper checks and balances between sites, morale and team integrity could suffer."

The chief said troops were spread out across Southwest Asia, yet his most rewarding experience was traveling throughout the AOR to visit the troops who were out working hard every day.

"We built facilities for shops, classrooms, maintenance, protection, and rest and recuperation facilities for the front line troops along with roads and aircraft parking ramps," he said. "Although all of this is great work, the most rewarding project our team took on was a project to train the Iraqis in basic construction trades so they can start to rebuild their own towns and villages."

Chief Stuckenschmidt also was key to mentoring six site superintendents and combat logistic patrol NCOICs and was key to all RED HORSE construction and convoy operations; developing a plan to cross flow personnel from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation Enduring Freedom when mission requirements dictated special project needs; and organizing resources in the OIF theater to sustain 10 sites executing 92 projects worth nearly $43 million for the entire Multi-National Corps-Iraq's area of operations.

"We are really making a difference in the AOR," the Bronze Star Medal recipient said. "Our Airmen and their families sacrifice and put up with a lot each time we deploy. I think it's important to have people supporting them and thanking them for the (service) they are doing for their country."

Tech. Sgt. Todd Pederson
"It is a situation you are never really prepared for, but when it does happen, you just fall back on the training and preparation you have," said now Master Sgt. Todd Pederson. "During our deployment, we encountered five IEDs and numerous small arms fire attacks."

At the time of his deployment, then Tech. Sgt. Todd Pederson was the 819th RHS's airborne training NCOIC, but from April through October 2007, he was the Combat Logistics Patrol NCOIC and served as the assistant convoy commander.

"(Our convoy team) transported equipment, material and sometimes personnel to eight different forward operating bases in Iraq in order to support the construction efforts of the 557th ERHS," Sergeant Pederson said. "The work the squadron performed made Iraq a better place not only for the American servicemembers, but for the Iraqi people."

Sergeant Pederson said a memory that will stay with him forever was his convoy team's worst day and also their best day, and that the biggest asset they had was each other.
"Our lead vehicle suffered a direct detonation from an IED," he said. "The vehicle was severely crippled and we had to perform a casualty evacuation on the occupants. The best story to come from it was that all personnel survived."

During his deployment, this Bronze Star Medal recipient delivered more than 3,170 tons of equipment and materials valued at $25 million; stepped up to lead when the master sergeant NCOIC was injured in combat skills training and performed well above his pay and experience; and maintained calm and directed convoy operations through crowds of pilgrim marchers in Baghdad despite gridlock traffic and small arms fire attacks.

"We performed our mission the best we could in order to make that process as seamless as possible," he said. "This award is a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication that the (CLP team) displayed. It was an honor to have been able to work with them."

Air Force Combat Action Medal
Eleven Airmen from the 819th RHS were awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal for their efforts April through October 2007 with the 557th ERHS. The medal is awarded to Airmen who have been involved in direct fighting situations where they risked their lives in an enemy engagement.
The medal recipients are:
Tech. Sgt. Joseph Adair
Tech. Sgt. Bret Copple
Tech. Sgt. Robert Cullison
Staff Sgt. Casey Anderson
Staff Sgt. Jason Bischoff
Staff Sgt. Douglas Ergish
Staff Sgt. Matthew Phillips
Staff Sgt. Douglas Ragone
Staff Sgt. Stephanie Ramirez
Staff Sgt. John Sinner
Senior Airman Christopher D'Angelo

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Last update: Thursday, 21 August 2008

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