Major wins Bronze Star for combat heroism

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Eric Schloeffel
  • 347th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
By placing service before self, a 347th Logistics Readiness Squadron major earned the Bronze Star for combat heroism in the global war on terrorism. 

Maj. Freddrick Hughes, Jr., 347th LRS chief of combat readiness and acting director of operations, was awarded the medal for his dedication during an eight-month deployment to Iraq where he engaged in ground combat against the enemy. 

"The meaning of the medal really sums up why he deserves this recognition," said Lt. Col. James McLean, 347th Mission Support Group deputy commander. "He consistently led convoys through hostile environments, engaged enemy combatants and improved the posture of the Iraqi army." 

Within two weeks of returning from a deployment in support of Hurricane Katrina, Major Hughes received orders to Iraq. 

"Overall, I'm pretty humbled by the whole thing," said Major Hughes. "There were a lot of people over there doing equivalent to, if not more than what I did, so I feel honored to be selected to receive this level of award." 

The deployment began at Fort Carson, Colo., where he received a month-long, pre-deployment training to prepare him for combat. The training covered a multitude of areas, including close-quarters combat, Army combative training, combat weaponry, convoy training and a combat life-saver course. 

Once Major Hughes arrived in Iraq, he spent the next eight months ensuring everything in his realm of control went smoothly. 

"We deployed to a regional support unit to provide all the needed life support services at an Iraqi post," said the Nashville, Ga., native. "This involved everything from fuel and food to litter control and facility maintenance. 

"Basically, we lived and worked with the Iraqis," he continued. "I helped train the Iraqis assigned to me on how to interact with the Iraqi contractors by ensuring they received the contracted services." 

While making sure services were provided, Major Hughes also helped conduct more than 80 convoys in and around Mosul, Iraq. This helped the (U.S. Army) brigades and battalions in the area because they were supported during their deployment, he said. 

"We lived with the daily threat of (Improvised Explosive Devices) and sniper fire, just like all the others outside the wire," said the major. 

One challenge Major Hughes had to overcome was the troubled communication with the people he was training, he said. Some of the interpreters were good, but some spoke very broken English. 

"Trying to understand their contracting system and their way of business was also a challenge," said the major who began his 18-year career as an enlisted munitions systems specialist. "The key to the whole mission was developing a relationship with our Iraqi counterparts so we could conduct business." 

Another challenge Major Hughes faced was learning the proper protocol for conducting business. A business meeting wouldn't actually begin until conversations about the day over Chai tea were completed, he said. 

"We tried to embody the cultural relationship as much as we could while still staying within our boundaries," he said. "We tried to do what was right and not offend them in order to smoothly transfer the authority of battle space back to the Iraqis." 

Major Hughes also handled many situations outside his career field. 

"He took a deployment outside his normal career path that challenged him," said Maj. Anthony Cotto, 347th LRS commander. "By taking people out of their comfort zone and allowing them to make it work, they can grow and become good officers." 

Although not a normal Air Force deployment, Major Hughes said he would recommend it to all Airmen, officers or enlisted. 

"It is a great opportunity to embark upon," said Major Hughes. "To me this was a very challenging experience, but being a part of the imbedded training teams allows a person to get very close to where transitions of authority are being made. 

"I felt like I was right up front making a difference with the Iraqi army," said the major. "It has given me more of an insight into their culture and how they work and conduct business."