Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Air Force Academy Spirit

Battlefield Airmen to speak at Heritage Forum

By Staff Sgt. Don Branum

Academy Public Affairs


More than 40 Airmen who were previously deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq are scheduled to participate in the Falcon Heritage Forum in Arnold Hall Sept. 24-26.

The three-day event, titled “Portraits in Courage: Airmen in the Fight,” offers cadets an opportunity to interact directly with active-duty officers and NCOs.

The guests of the cadet wing who are featured at this event have displayed extraordinary courage at home and around the world while serving in the Air Force, said Col. John Norton, Director of the Center for Character Development, which sponsors the semiannual event.

“This group of speakers — from explosive ordnance disposal specialists defusing roadside bombs, to Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) agents working with the local population, to A-10 pilots supporting ground forces in the thick of the fight — presents Air Force Academy cadets with an engaging and realistic picture of present-day conflicts that they may ultimately be a part of,” said Maj. Tom Devore, Falcon Heritage Forum director.

The Forum originally began as an annual gathering of interested cadets and veterans. It has since matured into a major twice-yearly event spanning three to four days, allowing veterans from around the world to share their experiences with the entire cadet wing.

See the event program for a breakdown of speakers to venues and biographical data. For a complete schedule or more information, contact the Center for Character Development at 333-4904. Information about some of the guest speakers is included below:

Brig. Gen. Michael Longoria is the 93rd AGOW commander and a 1979 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate. He has commanded the 18th Air Expeditionary Group and 484th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia and served as commanding general for the Joint Interagency Task Force for Multi-National Force – Iraq.

Col. Angel Diaz is chief of the U.S. Northern Command’s Readiness and Information Operations Division at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and a 1987 Academy graduate. He participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, commanded the 776th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron and was operations officer for the 777th and 745th Expeditionary Airlift Squadrons in Southwest Asia.

Col. Dale Holland is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours in both fixed and rotary-winged aircraft and a 1987 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate. He has commanded special operations forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Col. Kevin Jackson is the operations director for the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis AFB, Nev., and a command pilot with 4,500 flying hours in C-130 Hercules aircraft. He was overall lead pilot of the 60-craft C-130 formation that flew in support of Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, the largest airdrop invasion force since World War II.

Maj. John Groves is a 1st Lt William Cheney award recipient. The MH-53 Pave Low helicopter pilot earned the award while delivering supplies to Iraq when his wingman was shot down en route. Major Groves and his crew rescued the crew of the shot-down MH-53 while fending off enemy attacks.

Maj. Dave Rayman, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, led a two-ship formation of A-10s in a close-air support mission July 27, 2006, in Central Afghanistan. His low-altitude precision fire destroyed enemy firing positions and protected coalition convoy members.

Special Agent James Collins risked his own life to rescue four crewmembers of a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter that crashed into Lake Quadisiya, Iraq, Dec. 3, 2006. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent received an Airman’s Medal for his efforts.

Senior Master Sgt. Mark Hurst fought to remain in the Air Force after losing his left eye during combat operations in Afghanistan in 2004. A Tactical Air Control Party operator before his injury, Sergeant Hurst worked to remain qualified to serve in combat zones after recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Master Sgt. Michelle Barefield is NCO in charge of the 4th Fighter Wing’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit and has deployed seven times during her 19 years in the Air Force. She received a Bronze Star medal for leading her team in rescue efforts after a vehicle in their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb.

Master Sgt. Douglas Moore is NCO in charge of the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Explosive Ordnance Flight at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Sergeant Moore received a Bronze Star for his actions during a post-blast analysis of a roadside bomb that injured five coalition servicemembers, wherein he located and quickly mitigated a threat from a secondary improvised explosive device. He also received an Air Force Combat Action Medal for returning enemy fire in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Shea Dodson volunteered for convoy security detail while deployed to Phoenix Base in Baghdad in 2005. His actions during convoy operations neutralized a suspected vehicle-borne suicide bomber threat as well as dissuading an Iraqi male armed with a machine gun from engaging his convoy.

Staff Sgt. Nick Ezell stayed calm and determined after an accidental discharge in his MH-53 helicopter wounded him in the head during a firefight in Iraq Dec. 29, 2006. Sergeant Ezell, an MH-53 aerial gunner, maintained his crew position during the battle and walked from the helicopter to an awaiting medical transfer vehicle after the mission.

Staff Sgt. Casey Holihan helped foil an enemy ambush while his convoy was on patrol in Tikrit, Iraq, on May 9, 2005. The convoy halted after a roadside bomb detonated near a vehicle ahead of the convoy. After his .50-caliber turret jammed facing the rear of his vehicle, he returned enemy fire with his M4 carbine, killing one insurgent and forcing the other to flee.

Staff Sgt. Scott Lilley met with former President George W. Bush while recovering at Walter Reed in July 2008 from life-threatening injuries he suffered from a roadside bomb in Iraq. The president initially thought Sergeant Lilley would not survive, but the NCO pulled through thanks to his willpower and the medical treatment he received.

Staff Sgt. Nick Worthington took part in 95 EOD emergency response missions while deployed to the 447th AEG at Sather Air Base, Iraq, in support of the 101st Airborne Division’s air assault element from March to August 2006. When an IED exploded near him in June, he aided his team leader and another wounded Soldier before a medic arrived on scene, shielding his team leader from enemy fire and pinning down insurgents inside a nearby house.

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