News: 167th AW airman awarded Bronze Star Medal while deployed to Afghanistan
Story by Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Deployments are nothing new to Capt. Christopher T. Tusing, the installation deployment officer for the 167th Airlift Wing.
With four previous tours of duty under his belt, as well as overseeing the deployments of hundreds of airmen assigned to the West Virginia Air National Guard Wing based in Martinsburg, one might think that his fifth and most recent six-month deployment to Afghanistan was a relatively routine one.
Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
In fact, his six-month journey proved in the end to be a very personal one providing a renewed connection to his great-grandfather who also donned a uniform in service to his country.
While deployed to Afghanistan for the first time instructing members of the country’s army and police on how to manage the logistics critical in helping to rebuild their war torn nation, Tusing found himself making a multitude of memories which will last a lifetime.
And it all culminated with him earning a Bronze Star Medal for accomplishing his mission above and beyond the call of duty.
Tusing said being honored with the Bronze Star Medal while deployed with his military peers is a milestone in his 20-year career in the West Virginia Air National Guard he’ll never forget. Being pinned with the prestigious medal by his overseas commander, Col. Arthur G. Weeks III, came as a complete shock for the young officer.
And receiving the honor is something he’s shared with very few back home.
That is until now.
“I am very humbled by it,” he said of earning the same award his great-grandfather had been bestowed with back in World War II.
Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Waters, a medic with the storied 1st Armored Division, earned his Bronze Star Medal more than a half-century before his great-grandson for service while deployed to the South Pacific during World War II.
"Never in my life would I have imagined being awarded this prestigious decoration,” Tusing said. “A decoration my great-grandfather was awarded by the Army during World War II.”
“He never spoke about it - not a word. I discovered it just after I returned from BMT (Basic Military Training) going through all of his old military things,” Tusing noted.
Sadly, the airman made the discovery only a few years after his beloved grandfather had passed away.
“I had always regretted not being able to discuss it with him until now,” Tusing said. “I guess in my own small way, now I understand his silence and why I've attempted the same.
“It was ingrained in my head years ago by one of my stronger leaders here at the 167th Airlift Wing that the world has enough `me’ and `I’ people - it's the team that gets the mission done, which was definitely the case here.
“I was truly blessed to be with and serve alongside great people, from every branch of the United States military and a slew of coalition nations; each doing great things on this deployment throughout Afghanistan.
“Our leadership made sure we were equipped, trained and prepared to execute effectively and everybody shared the load - without exception,” the Berkeley Springs resident said. “I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute to that team effort throughout this deployment in different roles, levels of responsibility and
Adding: “I remain both humbled and honored to have accepted this recognition while still in country, amongst our deployed team and I continue to look forward to each of their safe returns."
Assigned to the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Tusing was tasked with providing oversight of over $6.4 billion of inventory.
According to the official citation which accompanied his Bronze Star Medal, Tusing “orchestrated over 70 combat convoy missions for Afghan trainers to provide instruction to over 700 logisticians.”
Tusing said being honored with the Bronze Star Medal ranks right up there with the satisfaction he had helping deliver much needed clothes and school supplies to the country’s poorest via Operation Outreach Afghanistan, a volunteer service organization reportedly designed to help provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people living in the Kabul Province. The donated items were collected by members of the Wing and sent to Tusing who ensured it was delivered to those who needed it most.
For his efforts, Tusing was awarded the Military Outstanding Volunteer Medal. In part the citation for the award reads as follows: “Capt. Tusing’s passion for helping other people was instrumental in the growth and effectiveness of Operation Outreach in the Camp Phoenix area of operations. His good works enabled the soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen based at Camp Phoenix to build meaningful relations with the Afghan people. His compassionate and caring heart was invaluable in providing meaningful aid to hundreds of Afghans.”
“Capt. Tusing’s dedication and devotion to the Afghan people through Operation Outreach Afghanistan will have a lasting and positive effect on the Afghan people in the Kabul province. The Afghan people he touched will forever remember how he volunteered to help heal their hearts and minds.”
Another highlight for Tusing during his overseas tour was meeting a personal hero - fellow West Virginian (ret.) Maj. Gen. Chuck Yeager - who was visiting the deployed troops.
Even gearing up for the six-month deployment was an adventure Tusing said he’ll never forget.
For his fifth deployment Tusing underwent combat survival training for three months at Fort Polk, La., prior to being deployed in October 2011 to Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan, as a combat logistics adviser.
Tusing said the training was not only “enlightening and a lot of fun” but also quite challenging.
“I had the opportunity to see, touch, feel all the ‘GI Joe’ equipment that most of the Air Force doesn’t get a chance to (experience),” he said.
“I was like a kid in a candy store,” Tusing said of being able to have hands-on training of some of the Army’s most sophisticated weaponry.
Adding that the training: “Was just unbelievable.”
Once in country, Tusing was assigned as a CJ-4 MobileTraining Team (MTT) combat advisor position for the first three months and then tasked as a RSC-C Logistics Training and Advisory Team - Army (LTAT-A) Operations Officer.
Tusing explained transition in mission “was due to the overall reduction of footprint with the impending drawdown, but it really went pitch & catch with the first half of my deployment.”
Tusing explained that the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police both have their own versions of AFI (Air Force Instruction) and his mission was to help them implement the procedures with regards to logistical operations.
“Our team’s mission was to train their Afghan trainers on their Afghan processes,” he said of the first half of his deployment mission.
“What was the most rewarding part about that program is that it is a sustainable program that they will be able to carry forward following our departure. We had small teams going around training at ANA and ANP camps on their logistic processes and procedures.”
From the storing to issuing of everything from clothing and equipment to ammunitions, Tusing said, “Our role was to train their instructors and shadow with their training team as we went around Afghanistan.”
Tusing’s fifth deployment was the first since he was commissioned in 2006. He said each of the Wing’s Logistics Readiness Officers (LROs) will wind up taking a turn.
“While it was a mobilization, I was able to work to secure and volunteer for this specific line,” he said. “It was originally slated for (an) Active Duty Air Force (member).”
“Typically, the lengthy pre-deployment training - this one is the longest - dissuades interest,” Tusing noted. “When I read over what this mission would be, it definitely piqued my interest.”
During his deployment Tusing even managed to qualify for a Schützenschnur, a German marksmanship badge. Ironically he missed earning the gold medal by mere inches.
Tusing recalled that the German officer assigned to him as a range guide “was more disappointed than I was about my near miss - literally in inches - of the award in gold.”
“I was definitely more than satisfied with the silver,” Tusing said. “I was very thankful to be able to participate in the (Schützenschnur) qualification.”
“It was a great memory,” he said summing up that nugget of experience.
Multiply that many times over and you get an idea of the priceless memories Tusing will keep from his last deployment.
Along with the Bronze Star Medal and Military Outstanding Volunteer Medal, Tusing was awarded the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, NATO Medal and Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon.