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Ensuring 'rule of law' lands JAG Bronze Star

  • Published
  • By Ashley M. Wright
  • Air University Public Affairs
After a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 42nd Air Base Wing staff judge advocate received the Bronze Star for his meritorious service.

Lt. Col. Joseph Bialke served as the chief liaison to the International Committee of the Red Cross while serving with the Multi-National Force-Iraq Headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, from March to October.

Consenting to regular inspections by the Red Cross, Colonel Bialke personally escorted delegation members of the humanitarian organization on 14 inspections of detention facilities throughout Iraq. The inspections ensured the enforcement of applicable international laws regarding the care and custody of detainees while showing the national and international communities the United States' staunch commitment to justice and adherence to international law, the colonel said.

"We and our Iraqi and many coalition partners share the vision of a secure Iraq governed under the rule of law," he said.

The citation, signed by  Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, praises Colonel Bialke for leading inspections "in the midst of indirect fire" while ensuring operations were well above the law and accurately represented to committee members.

Despite the citation, Colonel Bialke said he feels his award reflects more the actions of those who worked with him.

"I was traveling in HUMVEE gun trucks or flying on helicopters throughout Iraq, but I felt safe because of the mission focus and professionalism of those protecting me," he said. "The sacrifices made on a daily basis by these Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors are really admirable. To serve with individuals of such exceptional character is truly humbling. They exemplify service above self."

Also working with the United Nations Children's Fund and the U.S. Embassy, the colonel helped establish an education program for the some 800 juvenile detainees currently held by the Multi-National Force-Iraq. The insurgents in Iraq continue to try to recruit juveniles to commit their acts of terrorism because juveniles are a vulnerable population, Colonel Bialke said.

Striving to prevent another generation of terrorists and insurgents from harming Iraq in the future, he said the Multi-National Force-Iraq is educating its juvenile detainees and teaching them everything from language skills, mathematics and religious studies to computer skills and vocational training.

"The children of Iraq are its future," Colonel Bialke said. "The more we can do to help them become productive citizens and make them employable, the more stable, secure and prosperous Iraq will become."