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NEWS | Nov. 27, 2023

South Carolina Guard Airman Receives Bronze Star Medal

By Senior Master Sgt. Caycee Watson, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. - Master Sgt. Christopher Vine with the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron was recently awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievements while deployed to Iraq in 2022, making him the only current South Carolina Air National Guard enlisted Airman to hold this honor.

Vine was the airfield operations flight chief with the 443rd Air Expeditionary Squadron while deployed to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, to support Operation Inherent Resolve. He was responsible for more than 45 personnel and a 4.5 million square foot airfield.

During his seven-month deployment, Vine proved his combat leadership capabilities after unmanned aerial systems and rockets were launched in an attack at the base.

“One night, we got attacked and I was sitting in my room, studying at the time, and ran out to go into the bunker with everybody else,” said Vine. “As soon as we got the general release, I went to our headquarters building and spoke to the commander. He told me that several of the rockets had hit the airfield, so I asked if it was OK if I went out and looked.”

Along with a civil engineer officer, Vine went out in battle gear and began his duty as airfield operations chief to determine if the airfield was safe. They confirmed a rocket had hit and damaged the runway.

Vine said he immediately began coordinating with other agencies to ensure aircraft that needed to launch in response to the attacks could take off and medical evacuation aircraft conducting missions could land.

Vine’s quick response enabled civil engineers to repair the airfield overnight.

Vine also coordinated personnel accountability of his unit and provided airfield status updates and synchronized repair efforts for the runway.

“I did my job,” said Vine. “I was in charge of contracting and then I became the flight chief. I had great leaders that put me in areas outside my comfort zone to challenge me.”

In addition to his quick response in a combat environment, Vine says what he’s most proud of from his deployment had more to do with his actual career field as a radar, airfield and weather systems technician.

“There was an ongoing outage with the German radar, which provided the big picture in that location,” said Vine. “I had to actually go into the radar to identify the outage and coordinate with the German contingent, then work with the contractors on base to fix it. So, it was trying to get everyone talking the same language, figuratively and literally.”

Vine’s efforts restored situational awareness for the Combined Forces Air Component commander across the region.

“Master Sgt. Vine has been an amazing asset to the 245th ATCS and U.S. Central Command, as exemplified in his being awarded the Bronze Star for his leadership skills and judgment in a hostile environment — always getting the mission accomplished while taking extra care of his Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Counts, the 245th ATCS commander. “Vine is a role model, and our unit is extremely fortunate to have such a capable individual among our ranks.”

Vine was recognized as the 2022 Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for the South Carolina Air National Guard and is known for going above and beyond as a Swamp Fox leader.

The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone.



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