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Air Commandos earn ACA honors

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Caleb Pavao
  • Air Force Special Operations Command

Air Force Special Operations Command Airmen were recognized for their dedication and hard work by the Air Commando Association during their annual convention held in Ft Walton Beach, Fla. The ACA also recognized Air Commando legends with their annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The Commander’s Leadership Awards were presented at the Heritage Seminar breakfast Oct. 14, 2022, to the following Airmen selected by their commanders for having made significant contributions to mission accomplishment:
Maj. Owen-John Williams, 492d Special Operations Training Support Squadron
Capt. William C. Waters, 73d Special Operations Squadron
Capt. Colton T. Cash, 3d Special Operations Squadron
Capt. Frank Marquette, Geographically-Separated Unit
Capt. Aaron Moreno, Detachment 1, 58th Operations Group
Capt. Derrick Pee, 320th Special Tactics Squadron
1st Lt. Daniel J. Canale, 2d Special Operations Squadron
1st Lt. Cassandra Carvalheira, 752d Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Tech. Sgt. Joseph Aguilera, Geographically-Separated Unit
Tech. Sgt. Trayce T. Bias, 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron
Tech. Sgt. Jorge O. Brooks, 492d Special Operations Training Group
Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Clement, 7th Special Operations Squadron
Tech. Sgt. Joseph Milburn, 1st Special Operations Squadron
Tech. Sgt. Bradley S. Moore, 27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Tech. Sgt. David C. Robarge, Geographically-Separated Unit
Tech. Sgt. William Sheridan, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Staff Sgt. Christopher Peterson, 919th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron

The following Airmen were recognized at the Awards Banquet Oct. 15, 2022, and presented the following awards:

Chief Hap Lutz AFSOC Commando Medic of the Year – Tech. Sgt. Marcus Quintanilla, 1st Special Operations Support Squadron – Quintanilla mitigated a medical manning deficit by coordinating with 18 providers and three clinics which saved $80,00 in civilian referrals and increased the wing’s access to care by 40 percent. He also filled in as Senior Enlisted Medical Advisor where he oversaw a 36-member team and $4.3 million worth of war reserve material garnering eight awards from squadron to major command level in his time in the position. In addition, he orchestrated a rewrite of tactics, techniques and procedures, reorganizing $14.2 million worth of items and modernizing the damage control resuscitation capabilities for AFSOC deployment operations.

Senior Airman Julian Sholten Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Operator of the Year – Staff Sgt. Nicolas J. Long, 11th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron – Long executed nine thousand hours of ISR operations in support of two Operational Detachment Alpha teams thereby fueling counter-smuggling and ISIS clearing missions. Additionally, he operated as AFSOC’s sole Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Tactical Controller force generator where he managed 72 members’ currency and recertification, ensuring preparation for 36 ISR deployments. Finally, he was awarded the Combat Action Medal as the sole intel ride-out team member and survived complex near-peer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle attacks enabling zero casualties.

Operational Squadron of the Year – 9th Special Operations Squadron - The 9th SOS experienced one of the most demanding yet fulfilling years of accomplishment on record, according to squadron leadership. Most notably, the squadron executed three separate contingency operations: exfiltrating the final U.S. special operations forces and accomplishing the last four departures from Bagram Air Base; courageously participating in the largest Noncombatant Evacuation Operation in history during the “Kabul Airlift” mission; and ensuring specialized air mobility was in place and ready to execute a similar mission in Ethiopia if required. The squadron did this while simultaneously executing the only MC-130 constant combat deployment in the United States Air Force and embracing innovation by engaging in AFSOC pathfinding operations.

Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element Member of the Year - Staff Sgt. David A. Steel Jr., 352nd Special Operations Wing – Steel innovated a mission accomplishment report which was identified as a best practice and improved tracking. He also planned and designed subject matter expert exchanges which improved interoperability and reassured key Department of Defense allies. Finally, he developed what may become DAGRE’s first operational fires program, directly contributing to the flight's ability to provide agile defense in the joint environment.

Special Tactics Operator of the Year (Enlisted) – Tech. Sgt. Patrick W. Edwards, 24th Special Operations Wing – Edwards provided trusted counsel to the U.S. Central Command Commander and controlled the air evacuation from Afghanistan during the largest NEO in the history of the United States. He also surveyed and controlled the helicopter landing zone during a perimeter breach and controlled the movement of 10 helicopters resulting in the protection of $320 million in national air assets. He also led more than 40 fire missions, protecting two rural personnel recovery operations.

Special Tactics Operator of the Year (Officer) – Capt. Corey Stengel, 321st Special Tactics Squadron – Stengel powered air asset control and management over six Forward Operating Bases, enabling 57 combat operations and 264 enemies detained. He was also the primary Joint Terminal Attack Controller for a five-day clearance operation resulting in the seizure of more than 500 enemy weapons and the securing of the largest ISIS prison. Stengel led a unit Central Command deployment where he directed logistics and resources for 28 Special Operations Forces for six months, propelling sole Special Tactics capabilities across two different Areas of Responsibility.

Heart of the Team Award – Staff Sgt. Rachael Meyer, 25th Intelligence Squadron – Meyer overcame extreme emotional and physical diversity by battling an unknown illness for months on deployment in order to remain in support of her fellow Airmen in her role as sole ISR operator on the tactical operations floor. After returning home from deployment, she also saved multiple lives by taking control of a vehicle she was a passenger in when her friend had a seizure in the driver seat and lost control. Despite her adversity, she has maintained a “go-getter” attitude, according to her leadership, and spends her free time working on her bachelor’s degree and volunteering at a local animal shelter, and with non-profit fundraisers and local farmers’ market communities.

The following Air Commandos were inducted into the ACA Hall of Fame during the awards banquet:

Lieutenant General (ret.) Eric E. Fiel – Fiel commanded at multiple levels in the United States Air Force and within U.S. Special Operations Command, culminating his service as the commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. He airdropped Rangers on Point Salinas and led AC-130Us in Allied Force. Part of his enduring legacy left behind as the AFSOC commander, was the stand-up of the 24th Special Operations Wing and pushing forward as much combat capability as possible to fight and win on the battlefield. He also directed the first bed down of the MC-130J Commando II and CV-22 Ospreys in Europe.

Major General (ret.) Stephen A. Clark - In addition to flying combat missions in Somalia, Bosnia, and Haiti, Clark served in leadership positions in Afghanistan and Iraq. He commanded all SOF aviation assets during his time as commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component-Iraq from July 2006 through August 2007. From 2009 to 2011, he served as only the second commander of the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon AFB where the wing more than doubled in size and grew to more than 5,000 personnel and 84 aircraft.

Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) William O. “Sam” Schism – Schism flew as United States Navy seaplane radio operator in the World War Two Pacific Theater at 16 years old. During his 9,600-hour Air Force flying career, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Meritorious Service Medals and 11 Air Medals. He commanded AC-130A Spectre Gunships in the Southeast Asia War and distinguished himself in combat flying operations and went on to fill key management and leadership positions in the Air Commando community.

Chief Master Sergeant (ret.) Roger D. Maginel – Maginel served 25 years with Air Force Special Operations Command in squadron, wing, and headquarters positions and epitomizes the saying that “one man can make a real difference,” according to his nomination package. He was a vital crewmember on the first long-range refueling test of the MH-60G, flying two MH-60s non-stop from Eglin AFB, Fla., to Peterson Field, Colo. This 10-hour flight required three aerial refuelings and covered more than 1,200 nautical miles. Maginel’s expertise was so critical that he was tasked to support Headquarters Air Rescue and the 542nd Operations Group before returning to HQ AFSOC as Chief Flight Engineer and Enlisted Aircrew Functional Manager during Operations ALLIED FORCE and ENDURING FREEDOM.

Senior Master Sergeant (ret.) Michael Rizzuto – Rizzuto’s career is highlighted by numerous awards, first-time initiatives, by-name selections and selfless service. These accomplishments include establishing the first Navy-certified dive locker in the U.S. Air Force and the first Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear, and high yield Explosives (CBRNE) capability in all of SOF. He directly supported every major force structure event (including initial stand up) of the 724th Special Tactics Group, ensuring each organizational change was operationally validated by the command.