by Maj. Dale Greer
123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
1/15/2014 - KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Eight
Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard were honored with
prestigious medals here Sunday for their heroism and meritorious service
in Afghanistan, where they engaged enemy forces in lethal combat and
helped build a sustainable farming economy.
The Adjutant General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Air Force 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 here.
"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 airlift wing in the United States Air
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.
Distinguished Flying 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.
"It's hard to stop and reflect on our achievements when we've been
moving so fast, so often over the last 12 years," said Tonini. "Today we
have that chance to pause, to reflect and to celebrate the
accomplishments of these eight Airmen."
Air Force Capt. Nathan 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 Army Pathfinders had been ambushed by multiple improvised explosive
devices, according to the award citation.
The citation also described many other factors during the challenging
flight through reduced visibility into mountainous terrain. Tingle 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.
Tingle provided armed over-watch and searched for enemy triggermen as he
hoisted the first patient into the helicopter. As 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.
"His split-second 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 Federal Aviation
Administration 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, Air Force 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 U.S. 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 help.
"During the heaviest volleys of enemy fire, Sergeant 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,
Kinlaw 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. Sergeant Kinlaw remained exposed until the extraction
was complete according to the citation.
During the 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, Air Force 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,
Bonello served as the primary JTAC 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 read.
After an interpreter and an Afghan Commando were wounded, 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 Bonello was under direct fire for more than 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
Bonello also was awarded a second Bronze Star Medal 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 JTAC attached to an Army Special Forces Team.
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.
"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, 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 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
Air Force Lt. 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.
"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.
"His team conducted [more than] 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," the citation said. "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 [more
than] 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."
Kratzer also 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 underserved sector of the Afghan
population and moving them to a higher level of independence in
Air Force Master Sgt. James Oliver earned a Bronze Star Medal for
meritorious achievement as the Maiwand District Team Non-Commissioned
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
"Upon completion of his [liaison officer] duties, Oliver became the
Maiwand District [Noncommissioned Officer in Charge], where he quickly
integrated into his new assignment and played a major role in the
success of the team," said 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
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
"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 missions.
Air Force 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.
Taylor 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 citation
" 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."
Taylor 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 operations.
Air Force 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,
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
"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 first time."
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.
" 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 [more than] 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 the leg.
Sunday's final award recipient is an explosive ordnance disposal
technician from the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron.
Air Force 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 improvised explosive device. Immediately
after the detonation, enemy forces engaged both the disabled vehicle and
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 area.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Kentucky National Guard has deployed more than
16,000 Soldiers and Airmen in the support of military operations around