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Star worthy Sheppard Airman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Valerie Hosea
  • 82 Training Wing Public Affairs
Lt. Col. Joseph Turk, 782nd Training Group deputy commander, received the Bronze Star award presented by Col. David Norsworthy, 82nd Training Wing vice commander, April 17 at Sheppard AFB, Texas, after a one-year deployment to Iraq. 

As a member of the Coalition Air Force Training Team his mission was to advise, train and aid Iraqi airmen in the development of their air force.

"To be recognized for your actions in a combat environment is very special," Colonel Turk said. "Having your leadership recommend you for the Bronze Star is extremely humbling, especially when I think of the sacrifices others have made."

Colonel Turk deployed to Sather Air Base, Iraq, served under the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. The team consisted of U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army and Coalition servicemembers assigned to building the foundation of a credible and enduring Iraqi air force. 

"I was fortunate to be part of a great team that did some phenomenal things under adverse conditions," the colonel said. "Despite the day-to-day challenges they faced, they were able to find a way to get the mission done to support the Iraqis."

Colonel Turk served as the director of the mission support unit, and assisted Iraqi leadership on all aspects of base support operations helping them develop the necessary infrastructure to enhance their air force, Colonel Turk said.

He traveled to multiple Iraqi air force bases including Taji, Al Hurriya, Basra, New Al Muthana and Al Kut.

"Most of this travel was by helicopters, both Iraqi and coalition. Flying in (helicopters) was a great experience, but also means you are open to ground fire," he said. "(However,) one of the experiences I will never forget happened on Sept. 11, 2008. I flew on an Iraqi Huey II helicopter with an all-Iraqi crew that our team trained to conduct a site visit. It demonstrated to me how far the Iraqi air force has come due to the great efforts of the team I had the honor to be a part of."

Colonel Turk contributed to delivering $200 million in coalition construction projects that increased the Iraqi air force bases by 700 percent.

"One of the most important projects was constructing a $35 million flight training complex that provided facilities for Iraqi pilot training, (because) during the construction, the site had repeated indirect fire attacks that killed and injured 12 construction workers and caused 100 to leave the job," he said. "The team worked with the contractor to develop a phased approach for completing and occupying the facilities that allowed pilot training to continue to grow and provided the Iraqis the ability to train 160 pilots annually.

"The threats we faced were no different than those almost every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine face and pale in comparison to those who walk the streets of Iraq and work outside the wire every day," he said.

His team also built a new 5 megawatt power plant at the main Iraqi training base providing continuous power and enabling an increase in training. The number of trained Iraqi air force personnel doubled during his year with the team, he said.

The Bronze Star is awarded to individuals that distinguish themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service in connection with military operations against an armed enemy; or while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.