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Polish military decorates AF special ops civilian

Roy Vaughn (left) received the Polish Armed Forces Medal May 6 in recognition for his contributions to enhancing Poland's special operations capabilities. Polish Air Force Col. Piotr Gastal (right) presented the medal in a ceremony in Warsaw. (Polish Armed Forces photo)

Roy Vaughn (left) received the Polish Armed Forces Medal May 6 in recognition for his contributions to enhancing Poland's special operations capabilities. Polish Air Force Col. Piotr Gastal (right) presented the medal in a ceremony in Warsaw. (Polish Armed Forces photo)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- The Polish Armed Forces awarded one of its highest military decorations May 6 to an Air Force Special Operations Command civilian.

Roy Vaughn, an AFSOC exercise planner, received the Polish Armed Forces Medal during a ceremony in Warsaw, Poland. Vaughn played a major role in training PAF to operate internationally.

"The actions and assistance provided by Mr. Vaughn have helped ensure the security of Poland," said Col. Piotr Gastal, commander of Poland's Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego, which translates to Operational Maneuver Response Group. "With his help, the GROM has become an effective partner in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the other regions where we are engaged in battle."

Vaughn described the Poles' contributions as "huge" in the fight against Al Qaeda, Taliban and other combatants in Afghanistan.

Since 2003, Vaughn and his team have integrated Polish SOF into U.S.-based Emerald Warrior "spirals." These are roughly six, one-week-long exercises conducted annually at ranges at Cannon AFB, N.M., and Hurlburt Field, Fla. Along with the Poles, eight other nations take part in training that Vaughn called an "air-centric" approach to special operations.

The exercises build communications efficiency between special operations forces on the ground and AFSOC assets in the air. Realistic scenarios require forces to infiltrate areas with enemy presence, locate targets, and call in and guide close air support. The process hones Special Forces' joint terminal attack control skills.

The training program grew out of lessons learned during Afghanistan operations in 2002. According to Vaughn, partner nations with little or no multi-national JTAC experience found themselves trying to call in U.S. gunships while under fire. "Coordinating gunships is not something you should do for the first time when someone is shooting at you," Vaughn said.

Chief Master Sgt. Greg Smith, a former planner with Hurlburt's 1st Special Operations Wing, launched the training program in 2003, and Vaughn has since taken the reigns. He designs scenario injects and works coordination and logistics with participating nations to provide needed pre-combat experience. The result is improved wartime interoperability among partner nations, including the Poles.

"Special ops capability is vital to success in modern combat," said Brig. Gen. Mark Hicks, AFSOC director of operations. "Roy's work in our JTAC training program is helping America and her allies build a united and effective response to current and future global threats."

Vaughn is a retired lieutenant colonel with substantial AFSOC experience. He served as an MC-130P Combat Shadow pilot, performing global force infiltration and exfiltration missions. Vaughn also flew in support of the 1986 military strike on Libya. Starting in 1987, he served as the Air Force's deputy program manager for the MC-130 E/H Talon II, an aircraft designed for special forces infiltration/exfiltration and resupply. Vaughn has been on AFSOC's Directorate of Operations staff since 1999.

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