Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

December 19, 2011 at 4:09am

Guard Airmen recognized for recent deployment

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The Washington Air National Guard honored Airmen from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron during a ceremony Dec. 8 at the squadron's headquarters on Camp Murray.

The Airmen recently returned from one of the largest deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in the squadron's history.

Several emotional and heroic battlefield stories were told as 116th ASOS members received several prestigious awards ranging from certificates of appreciation, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon, the Air Force Combat Action Medal, the Air Force and Army Commendation Medal, to the Bronze Star Medal and the fourth highest award for valor, the Silver Star Medal.

"(The) ceremony is extremely important and historic for our Washington National Guard. Most of the Bronze Stars, Sliver Stars, and the Purple Hearts reside in the Air Support Operations Group and they continue to distinguish themselves in combat service year after year," Maj. Gen. Gary T. Magonigle, assistant adjutant general of the Washington Military Department and commander of the Washington Air National Guard said in a release. "To survive and operate under these intense environments, in the midst of firefights for long durations of time, comes through the incredible level of training that they have risen to. My hat is off to them."

The elite Citizen-Airmen of the Guard's Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) of the 116th ASOS act as the furthest extension of Air Force influence the ground battle. JTACs serve as close air support experts to ground commanders and direct the aerial attacks on enemy positions while the U.S. and Afghan soldiers fight to drive out insurgents. Furthermore, because of their intense training in the Law of Armed Conflict and Rules of Engagement, JTACs are the only ones on the battlefield permitted to tell an aircraft, "cleared hot to engage."

"Although we shared several war stories with one another, it was also important for our families and friends to hear about what the 116th ASOS had done for their country," said Capt. Travis Hartzell, an air liaison officer with the 116th ASOS.

Master Sgt. David Glisson, NCOIC of the 116th ASOS, said it's always good to see your friends get acknowledged for the stuff they do every day.

"This is one time we say thanks, but this is just a culmination and a very small piece of what they do all the time," he said.

The re-deployment ceremony also paid tribute to all the unsung heroes, which included parents, wives, children, friends, significant others and all the supporters who stood behind the 116th ASOS during preparations, training and the recent deployment. The unit's Family Readiness Squadron, members within the 194th Regional Support Wing, the 194th Air Support Group and the 194th Medical Group were also recognized for their significant support and outstanding efforts that enabled the 194th ASOS team to meet and excel in their deployment requirements.

The unit is now in the midst of helping its members transition back into life at home.

 "We will take care of you and your families during your reintegration," Magonigle said. "This is a time our leaders need to step up and be ready to help our members during this phase and it's my unwavering commitment that we take care of our families and our members so that reintegration goes smoothly."

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