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C-130 News: Part-time Colorado Springs airmen earn big, full-time award


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The Air Force's latest outstanding unit is made up of Colorado Springs airmen who do their duty on a part-time basis.

The 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base earned the service's Outstanding Unit Award, a medal now worn by each of its airmen, for "distinguishing themselves by exceptionally meritorious service or outstanding achievement that clearly sets the unit above and apart from similar units."

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The Air Force's latest outstanding unit is made up of Colorado Springs airmen who do their duty on a part-time basis.

The 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base earned the service's Outstanding Unit Award, a medal now worn by each of its airmen, for "distinguishing themselves by exceptionally meritorious service or outstanding achievement that clearly sets the unit above and apart from similar units."

The wing's commander Col. James DeVere said his team of reservists got the honor for hard work, including battles against 15 wildfires, accomplished in a family atmosphere where the longevity of airmen is often measured in decades.

"They are out here and balancing their civilian jobs with their military jobs and their families," DeVere said.

It's the eighth time the unit has earned the Air Force's top award for collective performance.

While the award cites the 302nd's other accomplishments at home and overseas, too, the unit is best known as the nation's aerial fire department. Using four-engined C-130 transport planes, crews from the wing fly low over wildfires to drop lines of retardant, 379,000 gallons of it in 2015 alone, ahead of the flames.

DeVere, who first served with the wing in 2007, came back to take command last year.

"I can't tell you how proud I am," DeVere said. "When I came back I knew this wing was a great place to be associated with."

For airmen who drill one weekend a month and serve another two weeks a year on duty, the 302nd gets a lot of work done. The award cited the unit's 4,000 flights a year, and the combined 2,000 days of support it offered to Operation Atlantic Resolve, a series of military training exercises in Europe.

The unit's mechanics also earned plaudits. While the wing's planes are nearly 25 years old, the 302nd was honored for having the best-maintained C-130s in the Air Force Reserve and having its aircraft ready for war at a rate that's one of the highest in the Air Force.

The 302nd's work ethic also spreads to the wing's record of community service.

DeVere said his airmen help in schools, coach youth teams, raise cash for charity and helped build low-income housing in the Pikes Peak region.

All from a group that already has full-time civilian employment and a part-time military obligation.

"That's the amazing thing - they seem to find the time to go out and volunteer," DeVere said.

The unit already has dozens of its airmen serving in the Middle East and is readying for a wider deployment of its troops after training this fall.

"We're focusing on making sure those folks have the training and are ready to do their jobs," DeVere said.

The 302nd also is standing by to fight fires this summer if they are needed.

DeVere said one of the biggest assets possessed by his wing is the broad swath of experience his airmen bring from their civilian jobs.

The bulk of his pilots fly for airlines when not in uniform. Many of his security forces troops are local cops when they're not on Reserve duty.

"They can take that experience from the civilian world and bring it into the Air Force and vice-versa," he said.

The outstanding unit award comes with a ribbon for dress uniforms, but it doesn't come with cash or promotions.

DeVere said his group isn't worried about material rewards or fanfare for a job well-done.

"The biggest payback is the satisfaction," he said. "We're all here because we want to be here."


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