By Tech. Sgt. Michael OHalloran, 105AW Public Affairs
/ Published March 04, 2014
STEWART AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, NEWBURGH, NY -- Twenty U.S. Air Force Airmen, with the 105th Base Defense Squadron, New York Air National Guard, received 29 medals during an awards ceremony attended by Lieutenant General Stanley E. Clarke, III, Director of the Air National Guard.
Lt. Gen. Clarke presented awards to the Air Guardsmen of the 105th Base Defense Squadron who had deployed with the 820th Base Defense Group, Moody AFB, GA to provide "outside the wire" base defense of Bagram Airfield, parwan province, Afghanistan. A total of 29 medals were awarded to include; 5 Bronze Stars, 12 Purple Hearts, and 12 Air Force Combat Action Ribbons.
Recipients of the Bronze Star: Chief Master Sgt. David Pritchard, Master Sgt. Shawn Knowlton, Master Sgt. Michael O'Connell, Master Sgt. Jose Pena-Rojas, and Tech. Sgt. Christopher Drews.
Recipients of the Purple Heart: Master Sgt. Shawn Knowlton (2 awards), Staff Sgt. Nigel Darby (2 awards), Staff Sgt. Wiston Rios, Senior Airman Michael Hanson, Senior Airman Amanda Martino (2 awards), Senior Airman Thomas Pulaski, Senior Airman David Smith, Airman 1st Class Samuel Davies, Airman 1st Class Marie Ann Raguso, and Airman 1st Class Matthew Zuniga.
Recipients of the Air Force Combat Action medal: Master Sgt. Shawn Knowlton, Tech. Sgt Michael Pacenza, Staff Sgt. John Bellino, Staff Sgt. Nigel Darby, Staff Sgt. Dustin Helms, Staff Sgt. Miguel Nin Jr., Staff Sgt. Wiston Rios, Staff Sgt. Vinh Taylor, Senior Airman Luis Giron, Senior Airman Michael Hansen, Senior Airman Amanda Martino, Senior Airman Justin Murphy, Senior Airman Thomas Pulaski, Senior Airman David Smith, Senior Airman Adrian Torres, Airman 1st Class Marie Ann Raguso, and Airman 1st Class Matthew Zuniga..
In his introductory comments, 105th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Timothy J. LaBarge stated, "We are thankful for the manner in which you conducted yourselves under the most challenging of circumstances, we are most thankful for you being here with us today. That gratitude stands in stark contrast to the immense sadness that we are feeling today, sadness because one of our 105th SFS deployers did not make it back with you. Staff Sgt. "TJ" Lobraico, a true American hero, may not be physically present in the room with us today, but he is with us spiritually and will be forever." He concluded his comments by stating "so if I had to summarize the heart and soul of today's ceremony I would do it with two words - courage and gratitude - your courage and our gratitude."
Lt. Gen. Clarke said, "I've done multiple award ceremonies throughout my thirty something years, never one like this; in any capacity, in any place that I've ever served. It's a historic day obviously for the members themselves, their families, the unit, the New York National Guard, the Air National Guard, and the United States Air Force, and the Nation."
Prior to the awards ceremony Lt. Gen. Clarke met with NY National Guard Senior Leadership, and was briefed on 105AW operations by Wing Commander Col. Timothy J. LaBarge and his support staff. He was then given a tour of the unit's highly successful C-5M refurbishment program. Clarke also met with 105th Student Flight members, our newest recruits, was given a tour of a C-17 Globemaster III, and enjoyed a lunch meeting with enlisted members in the dining facility. Following the awards ceremony Lt. Gen. Clarke spoke to pilots and loadmasters of the 137th Airlift Squadron.