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4 standouts in Afghanistan honored with Sijan Award | Community Spirit

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4 standouts in Afghanistan honored with Sijan Award
4 standouts in Afghanistan honored with Sijan Award

By Oriana Pawlyk, Air Force Times

Lt. Col. Grant Hargrove helped Afghan leaders expand electric power and other essential services to 2.7 million citizens of Nangarhar Province, an area where Afghan forces and the Taliban often clash for control.

Maj. Randall Harvey II, the sole Air Force joint terminal attack controller embedded with an Army Special Forces team in Afghanistan, maximized air power to neutralize 99 insurgents and capture 49 enemy combatants over three months.

Senior Master Sgt. David DeLoney III, in charge of infrastructure and administration as the camp commandant for a Special Forces group in Afghanistan, focused on “making that place better than how I found it.”

Master Sgt. Delorean Sheridan, a combat controller, engaged 15 to 20 insurgents and saved 23 lives following a “green on blue” attack in Wardak Province.

The four are winners of the 2013 Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award, given to airmen who demonstrate leadership in their service and personal lives.

First presented in 1981, the annual award is named for Capt. Lance Sijan, the first Air Force Academy graduate awarded the Medal of Honor. The fighter pilot, shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, evaded capture for 45 days despite severe injuries. He was eventually captured, broke free, but was recaptured and transferred to the notorious Hanoi Hilton prisoner-of-war camp where he died.

“The Lance P. Sijan Award is a powerful story, and getting to be associated with that and to be recognized in his name is a huge honor,” Hargrove saidin an Air Force Times interview.

Hargrove, a Security Forces officer, was the commander of Branch and Reconstruction Team Nangarhar Province between March and November 2012. Volunteering for this assignment, he worked with a team of 88 Army, Air Force, State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and Agriculture Department personnel to advise Afghan leaders to improve infrastructure in the area.

“We helped the various peace councils increase their outreach for Afghan reintegration,” Hargrove said. “The Afghans also got 16 infrastructure projects started, which was a huge success. Everyone felt that the key to unlocking the potential of Nangarhar was to get power in the area from the local dam to industrial parks and Jalalabad city.”

The communities decided what would be best for their regions — anything from standard wells and schools to more complicated projects like watershed management to increase irrigable land, Hargrove said. Hargrove also finished an existing Commander’s Emergency Response Program in the area, completing work on 23 schools, clinics and government buildings worth about $15 million.

“We were outside the wire six days a week, traveling to various districts each day to have as many team engagements as possible on the Afghans’ turf,” Hargrove said. “The most positive thing that stays with me is some of the relationships I had with some of the Afghans I worked with closely. ... Waking up and getting out of bed to go work with these guys was a daily act of bravery for them, and their level of commitment was incredible.”

Hargrove, who’s been in the Air Force 18 years and is assigned to Air Force Logistics, Installations and Mission Support, Washington, D.C., is most proud of the peace reintegration efforts and the energy project. “The main way that the Afghans are going to break away from the insurgency is that people want jobs, you have to have a good economy, and ... you need cheap electricity to do that to help get power into the industrial centers to get that started,” he said.

DeLoney,who’s been in the Air Force almost 25 years, is operations flight superintendent for the 820th Red Horse Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. He was the camp commandant for a Special Forces group in Afghanistan that trained and mentored Afghan commandos between June and December 2012.

A heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician by trade, “I was in charge of the internal infrastructure and administration of the camp, including aspects of planning, construction, operations and management, facilities maintenance, security, services and sustainment. The captain I replaced ... taught me to focus on making that place better than how I found it,” DeLoney said in an email to Air Force Times.

The infrastructure operations consisted of 156 airman who sustained a $5 billion plant and were labeled “Best Water and Fuels Systems Maintenance Flight in the Air Force.”

In addition, DeLoney conducted 75 tactical convoy missions ensuring safe transportation of senior leaders to develop a framework for the successful NATO training mission in Afghanistan, according to his citation.

“The missions can’t be discussed in detail, but I can say that those times have given me a whole different perspective on our brothers who come back wounded and the ones who don’t come back at all,” DeLoney said.

Deloney said he was surprised to receive the award, given all the other “superheroes” at Nellis. “Earlier in my career, I learned that it is more important to be a part of the best team instead of trying to be the best one on the team, so every decision I have made, and will continue to make, is based off of that theory,” he said.

Harvey, a flight commander assigned to the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, executed 34 missions as the sole Air Force joint terminal attack controller while embedded with the Army Special Forces team, according to his nomination citation. He consistently demonstrated the highest qualities of leadership on the battlefield, destroying 11 enemy fighting positions despite the devastating loss of his teammate to enemy fire, the citation says.

Sheridan, a combat control craftsman, 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Army Airfield, Fort Bragg, N.C., pioneered a unique squadron reconnaissance team, significantly enhancing the unit’s ability to respond to contingencies and wartime taskings, according to his nomination citation.

While attached to an Army Special Forces team in Afghanistan, he executed 32 missions that neutralized nine enemy combatants and captured two high-value insurgent leaders, significantly bolstering the ability of local security forces.

Finally, Sheridan deftly responded to an Afghan insider attack. He neutralized the attacker and expeditiously evacuated 23 wounded teammates. For this he also received the Silver Star and inclusion in the Air Force Portraits in Courage publication.

Sheridan could not be reached by press time, and Harvey declined an interview request.

The selected airmen will receive their awards at a date still to be determined. They will alsobe presented the Air Force Recognition Ribbon by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.

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