HomeNewsArticle Display

Air Force awards first Remote device: Dominant persistent attack aircrew recognized

This award ceremony recognized the direct impact Remotely Piloted Aircraft aircrews have on the battlefield and distinguished those who performed extraordinarily in their capacities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Thompson)

From left, Col. Julian C. Cheater, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, retired Maj. Asa, former 432nd WG MQ-9 Reaper pilot; Capt. Evan, 432nd WG MQ-9 pilot; Capt. Abrham, 432nd WG MQ-9 pilot; 1st Lt. Eric, 432nd WG MQ-9 pilot and Senior Airman Jason, 432nd WG sensor operator pose for a photo July 11, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. This award ceremony recognized the direct impact Remotely Piloted Aircraft aircrews have on the battlefield and distinguished those who performed extraordinarily in their capacities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Thompson)

This award ceremony recognized the direct impact Remotely Piloted Aircraft aircrews have on the battlefield and distinguished those who performed extraordinarily in their capacities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Thompson)

An Air Force medal with an attached remote “R” device sits in front of an MQ-9 Reaper July 9, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The “R” device distinguishes an award earned for hands-on employment of a weapon system that had direct and immediate impact on a military operation, without being exposed to hostile action or immediate danger. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Thompson)

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- The Air Force’s first-ever remote “R” device was presented to aircrews of the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing July 11, 2018 at Creech Air Force Base. Col. Julian C. Cheater, 432nd WG/432nd AEW commander, ceremoniously presented the Meritorious Service Medals and Air Force Commendation Medals with the device.

The device was authorized in 2016, with the criteria released in 2017, establishing an award earned for hands-on employment of a weapons system that had direct and immediate impact on a combat operation or other military operations. Qualifying actions can be performed in any domain, but must not expose the individual to personal hostile action.

This award ceremony recognized the direct impact Remotely Piloted Aircraft aircrews have on the battlefield and distinguished those who performed extraordinarily in their capacities.

The “R” device is authorized for placement on the Legion of Merit, Meritourious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal and Air Force Achievement Medal. It is not authorized on any other ribbon or medal.

432nd Wing leaders highlighted five Airmen for their actions in combat.

Their selection was based on stringent criteria, including strategic significance, protection of ground forces, leadership displayed, critical thinking, level of difficulty and innovation.

“It is a great honor to recognize the contributions of these Airmen,” Cheater said. “Much of the world will never know details of their contributions due to operational security, but rest assured that they have made significant impacts while saving friendly lives.”

All devices may be awarded retroactively to Jan. 7, 2016.

Bringing the fight to the enemy
In three separate combat operations, aircrews from the 432nd Operations Group and the 732nd OG were successful in eliminating threats and saving lives of American and coalition forces on the ground.

Retired Maj. Asa, 732nd OG MQ-9 pilot and mission commander, and Capt. (then 2nd Lt.) Evan, 732nd OG MQ-9 Reaper pilot distinguished themselves in combat operations in February 2016.

The crew supported dominant persistent attack and reconnaissance over 74 days to identify a high-value target and known terrorist. Once identified, the crew adapted to a dynamic situation as the target traveled through densely populated areas at a high speed.

Evan’s crew provided key input and strategic coordination with other aircraft and buddy-lased for the strike, successfully removing the theater’s number two high-value individual from the battlefield. Buddy lasing is a technique where a laser-equipped aircraft guides in a laser-guided weapon delivered from another aircraft.

Evan said the “R” device should help shed light on the impact RPA aircrews have in battle, was humbled to be recognized and hopes that those outside of the enterprise gain a better understanding of what RPAs bring to the fight.

“I went home that night and I knew what I did,” Evan said. “I think to the outside community, something like this will give a sense of perspective.”

In another combat operation, 1st Lt. (then 2nd Lt.) Eric, 432nd OG MQ-9 pilot; and Senior Airman Jason, 432nd OG MQ-9 sensor operator were recognized for their support during a contingency effort.

While scanning for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria enemies ahead of coalition forces on the ground, the crew discovered a truck with a large caliber machine gun mounted in the bed moving toward friendly forces. The vehicle began firing at the friendly forces for a short period of time and then returned to a garage. The enemy repeated this maneuver multiple times.

The crew began coordinating a nine-line with a Joint Terminal Attack Controller for strike authorization. While maneuvering the aircraft, the crew noticed a large group of civilian adults and children, across the street in an alley from the vehicle firing at friendly forces.

With a persistent attack capability, the crew elected to wait until the vehicle returned back to the garage in order to protect the civilians.

“In this particular situation, we were able to quickly assess that the enemy was not yet inflicting effective fire on friendly forces which allowed us to completely prepare for the strike,” Eric said.

Once the truck returned to the garage, Eric and Jason took action. Using their only AGM-114 Hellfire missile, they eliminated both the vehicle and enemy combatants who performed hostile actions, while safeguarding friendly forces and civilians.

Additionally, Capt. Abrham, 432nd OG MQ-9 pilot and his aircrew were scanning a known hostile area when the weather deteriorated, causing all manned aircraft to exit the area. Abrham remained on station. After several hours of surveillance, he observed enemy personnel begin to open fire on friendly forces.

While battling increasingly adverse conditions, Abrham dynamically employed four Hellfire missiles, eliminating three enemy targets, two vehicles, and one mortar system. He then navigated the safe return of his aircraft despite the marginal weather.

All recipients made key decisions in the heat of the fight which saved lives on the battlefield.

Recognizing modern warfare contributions
This device originated from the controversial Distinguished Warfare Medal proposed in 2014. Similar to the “R” device, the original decoration aimed to honor those who made a significant impact in combat without physically being exposed to hostile action.

The proposition was declined due to its ranking, which would have placed it above the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with the Combat valor “V” device, a suggestion that didn’t sit well with many combat veterans.

Simultaneously, Air Force officials announced that it would be replaced by a device that would attach to authorized medals. Since then, Air Force leadership has made strides in normalizing the RPA enterprise with the Culture and Process Improvement Program, an initiative that brought forward several improvements including improved manning, additional basing opportunities and streamlined training.

“These members create direct combat effects that lead to strategic outcomes and deliver lethal force, while physically located outside the combat area,” said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services in a 2017 release.

As the community grows, recognizing RPA Airmen achievements with the “R” device is another step toward normalizing remote operations relative to other weapon systems.

“It’s important to recognize the unique character of this type of warfare, and the RPA Airmen who provide significant contributions to the joint fight,” said Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly, 12th Air Force commander.

RPAs allow for a 24/7 year-round mission, but the Airmen in the cockpit are the driving force behind that mission set. They continue to meet the demand of combatant commanders and coalition forces around the world.

“The unwavering and collective dedication of the members of the RPA community often means that U.S. family members are able to reunite with their deployed loved ones again and innocent civilians are liberated from ruthless groups like ISIS,” Cheater said. “The ‘R’ device denotes that there were critical impacts accomplished from afar—often where others cannot go—and that we are ready to fight from any location that our U.S. leaders determine is best.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
Every #Airman has a story and their unique, diverse backgrounds only make our fighting force stronger. Read how thi… https://t.co/yy8SQcJkNo
.@USAFCENT #Airmen keep an eye in the sky, provide long-range radar surveillance at #AlUdeidAirBase.… https://t.co/EJXwQfc9Wl
#Airmen @28thBombWing are replacing outdated multi-purpose vehicles - nicknamed bread trucks - w/ five new transit… https://t.co/zx6Kd979jm
Any time, any place! An independent duty medical technician #Airman @Hurlburt_Field performs life-saving procedures… https://t.co/0a36WYRHux
The 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron @BagramAirfield keeps #Airmen connected downrange. https://t.co/5RBafip23c
RT @DeptofDefense: Training to be the best! A @USAirForce pilot trains in the 360-degree Operational Flight Training Simulator at @Sheppar
An #Airman assigned @TeamMinot crouches in rotor wash in the Turtle Mountain State Forest, during a field training… https://t.co/ERqU5OnEJ0
Threatening weather does not stop once hurricane season ends, and it becomes the mission of the #HurricaneHunters t… https://t.co/ad5VuNO6mP
Virtual, augmented reality may hold key to future #AirForce training. Find out how: https://t.co/FAcEaj4w6f https://t.co/7tdpioVtu9
#MentorMonday: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mu… https://t.co/PjGcBMVliB
Our partnerships and @NATO allies help keep our mission moving forward. https://t.co/5R4ZB7XqXs
$40M up for grabs! Find out how your small business can make some cash while helping solve some of the #USAF's toug… https://t.co/0AEmZhZGdI
RT @SecAFOfficial: Happy birthday 🎉 to #USAF Col & #space pioneer Buzz Aldrin @TheRealBuzz ✈️🚀 https://t.co/gIsicyA1uk
#Innovation! First metallic #3Dprinted part installed on an operational #F22 Raptor @HAFB. The new part will not co… https://t.co/rkKr1jtThg
Practice makes perfect! These #SpecOps medical experts maintain readiness & relevance for all operations, today and… https://t.co/WMpdt9LTGe
Remembering a woman who changed the world: Millicent Young, Women #AirForce Service Pilot in World War II, dies at… https://t.co/mri1QRXOC8
From fast food to future technology, one #Airman found a new calling @AirNatlGuard and decided to ditch the fryer f… https://t.co/I8qX7GpH4n
An #F35 sits on the flightline @LukeAFB, Jan. 10. Six different aircraft maintenance units from #TeamLuke competed… https://t.co/OxVMxf7Ayw
It takes a lot of coordination to clear a flightline of snow, but @TeamMisawa--a place that averaged more than 147… https://t.co/VQ4qjdsxFz
RT @SecAFOfficial: It is our responsibility to maintain a strong national defense @usairforce https://t.co/JXzhtqdMrg