War on Terrorism

Friday, April 26, 2013

Laughlin Airman supports warfighters, submitted for seven Air Medals

by Senior Airman Nathan Maysonet
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

4/24/2013 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- One Laughlin Airman who recently returned from deployment, has been submitted to receive seven Air Medals and two achievement medals for his service in the skies over Afghanistan.

First Lt. Joseph Tomczak, 86th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, returned to his duties as a first assignment instructor pilot here at Laughlin in January after completing a 212 day deployment to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

"When I saw the opportunity to deploy, I put my name in the hat," said Tomczak. "I knew I wanted to be a part of the fight or at least as close as I could get to it."

Tomczak has served at Laughlin since beginning his flying career in the Air Force more than four years ago. After completing pilot training here, Tomczak's first duty was to train and lead future pilots.

During his recent deployment to Afghanistan, Tomczak flew with the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron as a MC-12W mission pilot and assistant flight commander, an experience quite different from his day-to-day duties at Laughlin.

"I was 24 at the time and thrust into the role of assistant flight commander, responsible for 42 officers and enlisted personnel," said Tomczak. "I went from an instructor pilot to leading airmen in combat situations. It was all very different and unique."

Those combat situations involved Tomczak flying the MC-12W to conduct tactical intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance flights in support of forces on the ground. He and his crew flew overhead escorting the ground units as they carried out missions ranging from patrol to medical evacuations and everything in between.

"If we found something suspicious, we called it in to the joint terminal attack controller who was usually by the ground force commander," said Tomczak. "We saw what was around the corner and prided ourselves for helping convoys doing joint patrols move from one point to the next."

Tomczak was also an air warden helping to facilitate close air support.

"As an air warden I had delegated authority from the JTAC to tell planes to fly at different altitudes, have helicopters on station and to bring in aircraft that we needed and didn't have on hand," said Tomczak.

With more than 150 missions and 800 hours of flight time under his belt, Tomczak's support of Coalition forces on numerous combat sorties, day and night, over hazardous terrain and under threat of hostile fire, are the reason why he was submitted for seven Air Medals and two achievement medals.

"I would definitely do it all over again," said Tomczak. "When we talk about Laughlin and our mission of producing world-class pilots, mission-ready airmen and developing professional, disciplined leaders, this deployment was about all three, and I am bringing everything I learned back here."

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