Published: October 22, 2013
Airmen and civilians at the Air Force Academy were honored for their role in battling June's Black Forest fire.
The Air Force Achievement medal went to 36 firefighters for their work on the blaze, a group honor that commanders said was distinct because civilians were given the military award.
"Think of the last time you saw a civilian get an Air Force Achievement medal," Col. Marty Schlacter, who command's the academy's 10th Mission Support Group, said before pinning the medals on recipients at an academy fire station.
The academy's fire department sent some of the first firefighters to Black Forest when the wildfire erupted there June 11.
Schlacter said academy firefighters help save an estimated 100 structures from the 18,000-acre blaze.
"We traditionally receive decorations in our Air Force because we did something for the betterment of the unit," Schlacter told the medal recipients. "You're getting the decoration for protecting people who don't even know your names and may not even have known you were there. If that's not the definition of service before self, I don't know what is."
The medals are given to Air Force members for "outstanding achievement or meritorious service."
The academy's fire department is made up of active-duty airmen and civilians. They handle emergencies on the academy's 18,500-acre campus and on a neighboring stretch of Interstate 25. The academy department also has agreements to help neighboring agencies in emergencies.
Schlacter said he was especially proud of the school's civilian firefighters because they've provided top-notch service despite budget woes that have led to furloughs and cast paychecks into doubt.
"It's one of the testaments to the civil service force we have," Schlacter said.
Air Force Academy Fire Inspector Mike Mater was one of the civilians awarded the medal.
"It's an awesome thing to be recognized," he said.
The Air Force Academy gave 29 airmen and civilian firefighters the Air Force Achievement medal for work on the Black Forest fire. Recipients were: Hans Barkley David Caulfield Roy Dalton Staff Sgt. Tanner Derosier Steven Gonzales Wesley Harrison Ken Helgerson Patrick Kraft Xavier Leal Reid Lohse Staff Sgt. Nicole
Longwell Mike Mater Travis Perkins Staff Sgt. John
Salinas Airman 1st Class
Dusty Smock Technical Sgt. Jason
Linta Airman First Class
Sulaimon Burns Brandon Eubanks William Gates Andrea Caraway Mark Caraway Martin Clinton Tommy Disario Michael Fitzpatrick Airman 1st Class
Tieghan Fitzpatrick Staff Sgt. Jacob Frey Senior Airman Kenneth Gestes Patrick Holt Jonathan Milam Tyler Moran Ryan Moriarty Airman 1st Class
Blake Nelson Ron Prettyman Mike Trenker Kenneth Kotcher