Space professional honored with Bronze Star Medal
PETERSON AFB, Colo. – Air Force Space Command honored one of its own for meritorious service in the line of duty during a ceremony here June 22.


By Catherine Jung, AFSPC Public Affairs
Posted Thursday, June 30, 2005

  
Space professional honored with Bronze Star Medal
ABOVE: PETERSON AFB, Colo. – General Lance W. Lord, Air Force Space Command commander, pins the Bronze Star Medal on Col. Steven R. Prebeck, AFSPC chief of counter space operations, who served as 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing director of staff at or near Balad Air Base, Iraq, from January 4 through May 5, 2005. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ken Bergmann) BELOW: Col. Steven R. Prebeck, AFSPC chief of counter space operations, stands at Balad Air Base, Iraq, during his deployment January 4 through May 5, 2005. While deployed, Colonel Prebeck served as 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing director of staff. (courtesy photo)


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PETERSON AFB, Colo. – Air Force Space Command honored one of its own for meritorious service in the line of duty during a ceremony here June 22.
Col. Steven R. Prebeck, AFSPC chief of counter space operations, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal by General Lance W. Lord, AFSPC commander, for serving as 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing director of staff at or near Balad Air Base, Iraq, from January 4 through May 5, 2005.

“I had been looking to deploy since 9-11, but most O-6s are in a different rotation cycle, and a slot I could take didn’t come available until this year,” said Colonel Prebeck.

During his deployment, the colonel’s unit was engaged in ground operations against the enemy, and he led wing response to more than 60 indirect attacks while exposed to danger from hostile rockets and mortars.

“We worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week,” said the colonel. “The days were long, but there was no bureaucracy, so all of our time was spent on the mission, which was very rewarding.”

People from the 332nd AEW were faced with improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance almost daily, and Colonel Prebeck coordinated EOD teams to dispose of the armaments.

“It was initially unnerving being fired upon so frequently, but when you step back and look at the numbers, the insurgents are rather primitive in their methods and aren’t very accurate with their aim,” said Colonel Prebeck. “The insurgents know if they fire upon us by day, our weapons are more accurate than theirs, and they will be killed. So at night, they sneak through the sugar cane fields at the edge of the base and bury tubes for launching mortars. Then they set a timer for each armament to go off during the day. Only two-thirds to three-quarters hit the base, and, of those, half didn’t go off.”

Coalition troops scour the fields daily for mortar tubes and destroy them to keep insurgents from returning at night to reload. During the deployment, only one person was injured and had to be medically evacuated for a non-life-threatening condition, and two base facilities were hit.

“They hit a vacant maintenance tent and an outdoor movie screen,” said the colonel. The Army, co-located at Balad, was quick to repair the screen.

In addition to managing EOD incidents, Colonel Prebeck was responsible for ensuring a safe airfield environment at Balad AB, Tallil, Kirkuk Regional AB and Baghdad International Airport, despite austere conditions, minimal equipment and complex operations with Air Force, Army, coalition and civil aircraft. The Balad AB facility was especially challenging as the busiest and most complex single runway airport in the world.

“One of the most memorable aviation-related events I experienced while in Iraq was the stand-up of the first Iraqi Air Force squadron,” said Colonel Prebeck. “The Iraqi Air Force Band performed at the event, and although they were about as skilled as a high school freshman group, no words can describe how moving it was to hear them play our national anthem and the Iraqi national anthem.”

Iraq started its new air force with three C-130 aircraft, donated by the United States. Most Iraqi pilots received training in Jordan and continued specialized training in the United States. Shortly after the stand-up ceremony, Iraq held its first free election January 30.

“For us, [the election] was an event where we didn’t know what would happen,” said the colonel. “Airmen carried their weapons and wore full protective gear. We were not allowed to gather in large groups on base. Dining facilities were closed. A lot hinged on the success or failure of the election.”

Huge lines formed outside of polling stations on election day.

“People were not intimidated to come out and vote, and the degree of hostile response we expected from the insurgents didn’t happen,” said Colonel Prebeck. “There was one incident where a car bomb went off in Baqubah about 15 minutes after polls opened, and people scattered. But 10 minutes later, voters were back in line. It puts a new perspective on voting in the United States – we complain when it’s too hot, too cold or raining on election day.”

During his tour, Colonel Prebeck, repeatedly traveled across Iraq to visit the wing’s geographically separated units, giving them opportunity to work key mission issues with wing staff.

The colonel’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. His Bronze Star Medal citation lists impressive accomplishments, but the medal came as a surprise for Colonel Prebeck.

“I’m very honored to be awarded a Bronze Star Medal for my service in Iraq, but I didn’t expect to receive reward from my deployment,” said the colonel. “We were all just doing our job.”


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