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NCO honored for contributions

Tech Sgt. Jason Graves, 314th Operations Support Squadron Intelligence Flight NCOIC, has been honored with a Citation of Honor by the Air Force Association.  (Courtesy photo)

Tech Sgt. Jason Graves, 314th Operations Support Squadron Intelligence Flight NCOIC, has been honored with a Citation of Honor by the Air Force Association. (Courtesy photo)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (AETCNS) -- A Little Rock Air Force Base Intelligence NCO has been honored with a Citation of Honor by the Air Force Association for his contributions to "the development of aerospace power for the betterment of mankind."

Tech. Sgt. Jason Graves, 314th Operations Support Squadron Intelligence Flight NCOIC, was the first enlisted Air Force member to serve with the II Marine Expeditionary Force stationed in Fallujah, Iraq.

According to the award citation, Sergeant Graves was recognized for coordinating with joint service and coalition partners at a level well above his rank, Sergeant Graves developed and integrated Air Force information operations into target analysis and coordinated operations security, psychological operations and electronic warfare effects for full spectrum consideration; developed information operations plans in support of Multinational Coalition Iraq and Multinational Coalition Fallujah Special Technical Operations objectives; and participated in three tactical missions into Fallujah surveying sites for projects supporting strategic information operations objectives.

As an NCO at a Marine base, he also pulled additional duties that aren't traditional for most Air Force members.

"All E-6's on Camp Fallujah assigned to the fire, effects and coordination cell were required to pull three hours of guard a week," he said. "That may not seem like much to our security forces troops, but for us "intel types" it's quite uncommon to be fully armed and dangerous and to be doing it in a combat zone."

The 12-year Air Force veteran said serving with Marines was an honor and a chance for him to carry on his family's military tradition.

"I come from a family of Marines. My father served in Vietnam and my grandfather took part in the invasions of both Tarawa and Saipan. To carry on their legacy was a tremendous honor," he said. The mission gave Sergeant Graves a view of the Iraq that isn't seen on TV.

"It provided me a first hand chance to see the progress we and the Iraqis are making," he said. "I got a chance to see the Sunni triangle from the ground and from the air," he said.

"Between the convoys in Fallujah to the helicopter rides into Baghdad, Al Asad and Al Taqaddam, the impression that was left on me is that Iraq is a beautiful country with limitless potential. Most of the Iraqis I met were friendly and hopeful for their future.

"The single most rewarding part of my tour was serving with the men and women of Camp Fallujah; it was an absolute honor," he said. "Those Marines put their lives on the line every day for the freedom of others and are truly heroes."

The sights and sounds of the deployment have provided a vivid backdrop of memories for him.

"The Air Force has taken me all over the world; from Italy to Slovenia to South Korea and I'd have to say that being in Iraq's Al Anbar province had to be the single most surreal experience in my life," he said.

"Riding in an up-armored Humvee through a war-torn city and seeing a woman dressed in a full burka blowing us kisses as we went by; watching a young boy point his toy gun at us while his father waves at us with a smile on his face; getting so accustomed to being shelled that you sometimes sleep thru it ... it was all like a strange dream. I would do it all over again and, like most of us at Little Rock ... I most likely will."

The experience has given him a better understanding of Little Rock's integral contributions to the Global War on Terror.

"It provided me insight into the tactical battle on the ground, which allows me to more clearly understand how the C-130's support that mission," he said. "After all; it was a C-130 that took me into and out of Iraq."

Sergeant Graves said he never imagined he'd win an award of this magnitude.

"I guess it might sink in a little more when I go to D.C. in September to accept it," he said. "However, being recognized in such a way lets me know that the time away from my wife, Sherry, and my daughters, Payton and Sydney, was spent doing something of value."