LUKE AIR BASE, Arizona –The Bronze Star, also known as the Bronze Star Medal or “Ground Medal,” is awarded to any member of the United States military for heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone. It can also be awarded to members of the military and foreign civilians.
There have been notable recipients throughout history who have won this award, such as US Army Lt. Col. Alan Cozzalio, helicopter pilot, US Marine Corps General Robert E. Cushman Jr. , the 25th Commander of the Marine Corps, and Mark Esper, the 27th Secretary of Defense.
Among these men and women is the Staff Sgt. Thomas Williams, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, NCO in charge of weapons loading. He won the medal for his commendable accomplishments as an armaments program manager and air arms safety adviser, 440th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, while engaged in military operations involving conflict with a foreign force enemy at Oqab Forward Operating Base in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“I have been selected for a one-year deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan, working for Train Advise Assist Command as an advisor to the Afghan Air Force and Afghan National Army,” said Williams. “I had just returned from Turkey on a short (temporary duty) mission, and about two days after my return, my head of [Royal Air Force] Lakenheath, England, told me that I had been selected to go to Afghanistan immediately.
During his one-year deployment, Williams conducted 187 off-wire missions in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Resolute Support mission, mentoring the commander of the Afghan Air Force ammunition squadron and three sergeant majors on ammunition security and personnel management. He also developed and implemented the Joint Armaments and Ammunition Training Program used by the All-Afghan First Class Aircraft Loading and Maintenance.
“[My mission was] to train, advise and help, ”said Williams. “To sum up, we [aimed] train [Afghan personnel] to work a variety of programs. As a Weapons Specialist and Weapons Troop myself, I have been tasked with working with aircraft systems regarding weapon loading, systems maintenance, and troubleshooting any malfunctions or faults. .
With his experience in both explosives and safe handling, he found even more ways to serve.
“With my familiarity with explosives, I was [appointed as] an advisor and trainer for the Munitions Command [that involved] building, [storing], the handling and delivery of ammunition and their components, ”said Williams.
It was through Williams’ efforts that the leadership of the Afghan Air Force was empowered to coordinate the training of 30 maintenance technicians, reassign 58 people and identify 47 infrastructure repairs, thus paving the way. for a more viable, integrated and professional Afghan air force.
“[Williams] was responsible for about eight different things outside of his career field, ”said Master Sgt. Bradley Smith, 62nd AMU section chief, who was deployed alongside Williams. “He was responsible for United Service Operations, or USO, mail and resource management for the Afghan Air Force. [He was] the go-to guy in all aspects of building the afghan air force.
His knowledge and experience were essential to the development of the 440th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron and the Afghan Army, as well as to the relationship between American and Afghan partners.
“We felt like part of their community and their culture,” Smith said. “When you’re in that environment, we can see how they interact, the patriotism they have and it’s powerful. “
For his leadership inside and outside the wire at FOB Oqab, Williams was shortlisted for the prestigious award. He went above and beyond to improve the capabilities, training practices, efficiency and operability of the Afghan Air Force with the United States forces as a whole.