Foreign award can now be presented to Airmen in Hungary

  • Published
  • By Capt. Christopher Bowyer-Meeder

The U.S. Air Forces in Europe Manpower, Personnel and Services Directorate, personnel division, has recently approved a way to recognize Airmen for their outstanding contributions to the Strategic Airlift Capability Program and the Heavy Airlift Wing at Pápa Air Base, Hungary. The Heavy Airlift Wing Service Medal, which was originally approved by the SAC program in June 2013, was approved for presentation to U.S. Airmen on Jan. 14, 2019.

The HAW is the world’s first and only multinational C-17 Globemaster III wing, and provides military strategic airlift capability to 12 NATO and partner nations including Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and the United States.

In June 2013, the HAWSM was approved for use by all 12 nations, but until now, could only be awarded to members from Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Poland, and Romania.

The USAFE Manpower, Personnel and Services Directorate spent nearly one year coordinating an update to the verbiage that defined the criteria for presenting the medal. Now classified as a foreign award, the HAWSM is similar in nature to an Air Force decoration and recognizes an individual for their service or performance.

“It is a huge win for the program for the U.S. Air Force to approve this decoration,” said Col. James Sparrow, SAC/HAW vice commander.

The SAC shares a unique construct as being independent and a multinational unit not assigned to NATO or one particular nation. Leadership at the HAW felt that it was important to ensure Airmen could be recognized for their roles in this multinational organization, and the USAFE Personnel Directorate ensured it could be done.

“It took a lot of hard work and coordination by Ms. Gabriele Lynn and Tech. Sgt. Brittany Rodgers to ensure this medal could be presented to, and worn by, U.S. Airmen in Hungary,” said Capt. Madeleine Pedretti, USAFE Manpower, Personnel and Services Directorate, Military Personnel Programs Branch chief. “We wanted to verify that it would qualify as a foreign award so we asked Headquarters Air Force and the Air Force Personnel Center what needed to happen, and we changed the verbiage to make it qualify.”

This administrative change to the medal requirements gives commanders with the HAW an opportunity to recognize personal achievements that Airmen accomplish in support of the wing’s mission.

“We sincerely appreciate all of the assistance that everyone in the Personnel Directorate provided navigating this process.” said Sparrow. “As the lead nation in the SAC program, this sets a great example for the remaining nations who haven’t yet done it to do so.”