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Air National Guard members honored at Hometown Heroes Salute

June 09, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Servicemen and women and their families of the 167th Airlift Wing stand at attention during a ceremony to salute them on Sunday in Martinsburg, W.Va.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — When Williamsport resident Troy Brawner joined the Air National Guard in 1989, he said he never would have imagined how it all unfolded.

That was before the United States’ war in Afghanistan.

Starting in October 2011, Brawner was sent to Afghanistan for a seven-month stint that involved performing air drops, and loading and unloading passengers, ammunition and other cargo.

“I got three kids and it was the longest seven months of my life. It was hard,” the senior master sergeant said.

Brawner was one of more than 340 Air National Guard members who were honored Sunday afternoon during a Hometown Heroes Salute at the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing.

Air National Guard members who were deployed for 30 or more consecutive days or employed at the airlift wing for that period of time in support of a military action were eligible for awards that were divided into three tiers.

The award for the first tier, for 30 to 179 consecutive days of service, was a framed letter of appreciation and the second-tier award, for 180 to 365 days of service, was a framed American flag.
The third-tier award, for 366 consecutive days of service and more, was an eagle statue.

It was the third such celebration that has been held at the base. The event also included a family day that featured activities for children and a health awareness program for Air National Guard members and their families.

Hundreds of Air Guard members, family and friends crowded into a building at the airlift wing for the 2 p.m. ceremony, which also included acknowledgment of the unit’s Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. That award is given by the U.S. Air Force once a year, and all active-duty, reserve and Air National Guard units within the Air Force are eligible, according to Andrew Schmidt, a member of the 167th Airlift Wing.

The award is difficult to obtain, Schmidt said.

The 167th Airlift Wing was given the award for completing equipment upgrades to increase the capability of the unit’s massive C-5 cargo planes while continuing to maintain the base’s commitments. The 167th also received the award for having the best fuel distribution team during the selection process.

Members of the 167th Airlift Wing fueled and defueled more than 7 million gallons of jet fuel without any mishaps, according to the 167th.

Col. Roger L. Nye, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing, talked about the base being the home for the cavernous C-5 aircraft. But more importantly, Nye said, the base is home to “some of America’s greatest airmen.”

After opening remarks, unit members who received the awards were called one by one to the stage to receive them.

Although happy to be home, Brawner realized things can change in an instant for people in the Air National Guard.

“They could call me back tomorrow,” Brawner said.

Chris Tusing of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., received a second-tier award for his more than 250 days of service.

Tusing said most of his time was spent in Kabul, Afghanistan. He said he helped train Afghanistan army and police forces so they would be prepared for the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan.

Tusing said it was an interesting experience, which was marked by significant snowfall last year and early this year.

Schmidt, of Gainesville, Va., received the third-tier award for a deployment to Afghanistan that lasted about a year. He also trained Afghanistan army and police forces, and he talked about traveling with Afghanistan forces as they were spreading the word about Taliban atrocities.

Chaplain Ronald Faith offered a benediction, acknowledging the ones who were honored and how God kept a “watched care over them and those they have left behind. Truly we can say that we have been all kept by your mercy,” he said in a prayer.

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