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Technical Sergeant Gary L. Gessendorf distinguished himself as Evaluator Flight Engineer, 550th Special Operations Squadron, 58 Operations Group, 58 Special Operations Wing, Kirtland AFB. Sergeant Gessendorf augmented the 9th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan as Operations Superintendent and Mission Flight Engineer. Sergeant Gessendorf flew 50 combat sorties, and personally moved 300,000 pounds of cargo, 531 passengers, and 7 vehicles in support of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force.


Technical Sergeant Jason P. Lemke distinguished himself as MC-130H Evaluator Loadmaster, 1st Special Operations Squadron, 353d Special Operations Group, Kadena Air Base, Japan. While supporting Operation NEW DAWN he instructed three loadmasters, enabled 193 combat sorties, and delivered 1,074 Special Forces personnel and 270 tons of critical equipment to multiple combat locations. In the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that rocked mainland Japan, he efficiently airlifted more than 30,000 pounds of fuel and 5,600 pounds of food and water supporting Operation TOMODACHI, saving countless lives.


Captain Joseph D. McCane distinguished himself as Aircraft Commander and Security Flight Commander at his Data Masked unit. Captain McCane was deployed 188 days in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and Operation NEW DAWN, where he flew 161 combat sorties, 668 combat hours, and facilitated the capture of 43 enemy personnel including Foreign Fighter Facilitators, Al Qaeda high value individuals, and a vehicle born, improvised explosive device cell leader.


Captain Jeff D. McMaster distinguished himself as Chief of Plans and Tactics, and AC-130H Instructor Pilot and Weapons Officer, 16th Special Operations Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base. While deployed, Captain McMaster served as the first Combined Joint Special Operations Air Detachment- Alpha Strike and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Operations Officer, where he directed the operations of eight aircraft in three locations. Captain McMaster also successfully led a 14-member crew on 68 combat missions in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, resulting in 81 insurgents killed in action.


Captain Eli G. Mitchell distinguished himself as Director of Operations, 321st Special Tactics Squadron, 352d Special Operations Group, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom. He astutely employed 17 joint terminal attack controllers to fulfill combat taskings in Afghanistan and Iraq, resulting in the execution of 121 combat operations and removing 127 insurgents from the battlefield. His support enabled Joint Task Force 10 to prosecute 35 combat missions, take 19 detainees, and further stabilize the Afghan region. Captain Mitchell also integrated five pararescuemen into an elite joint task force which saved 19 coalition personnel and salvaged 2.5 million-dollars-worth of critical helicopter parts.


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Captain Cary D. Mittelmark distinguished himself as Chief, Current Operations, 551st Special Operations Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. As mission commander, he led a team of 14 personnel executing 56% of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines total air support, flying 188 missions, delivering 42,000 pounds of cargo, and 420 passengers. As aircraft commander, Captain Mittelmark piloted 51 sorties including flawless execution of two close air support evacuation sorties delivering two Armed Forces Philippine soldiers with gunshot wounds to life saving care facilities.


Captain Brent W. Murrell distinguished himself as Chief of Weapon and Tactics, 919th Operations Support Squadron, Duke Field. Captain Murrell expertly led the SOF tactics community by bringing together three geographically separate tactics shops with three different weapon systems to form a SOF tactics symposium. This symposium resulted in a more cohesive and well rounded program providing effective training to all of AFSOC. He also built new theater specific scenarios combining simulator and aircraft which trained over 125 aircrew members for worldwide high-threat combat operations.


Captain Justin W. Norton distinguished himself as Chief of Mobility, 1st Special Operations Squadron, 353d Special Operations Group, Kadena Air Base, Japan. Captain Norton synthesized the efforts of his flight to ensure the seamless deployment of twenty squadron personnel in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM-Philippines. Captain Norton’s superior flying ability was evident during Operation TOMODACHI when he launched on thirty minutes notice and flew the first relief mission into Sendai airport, enabling critical supplies to flow into tsunami ravaged Japan.


Technical Sergeant Joshua M. Ort distinguished himself as Noncommissioned Officer in Charge, Weapons and Tactics, 11th Intelligence Squadron, Twenty-third Air Force, Hurlburt Field. While deployed, he skillfully managed 1,400 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements for 23 joint terminal attack controllers enabling 682 combat operations in Regional Command-South, Afghanistan. As a result, 3,800 hours of full-motion video were exploited to facilitate air superiority enabling the abrupt kill and capture of 160 enemy combatants.


Technical Sergeant Jared J. Pietras distinguished himself as Combat Controller and Chief Joint Terminal Attack Control Instructor, 321st Special Tactics Squadron, 352d Special Operations Group, Royal Air Force Mildenhall. Sergeant Pietras’ demanding regimen prepared 12 Joint Terminal Attack Controllers for combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq ultimately leading to the prosecution of 99 combat missions that carved 82 insurgents from the battlefield. As a perfect illustration of his all-encompassing superb performance, Sergeant Pietras earned the Noncommissioned Officer Academy’s Commandant Award for leadership ahead of 134 peers.


Fall 2011 │ AIR COMMANDO JOURNAL │ 51


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