ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Two airmen were awarded Bronze Star Medals on Monday for their service during a six-month deployment in Afghanistan.
It was the second time both Master Sgt. Shannon W. Blanton and Tech. Sgt. Ruben Martinez received the honor.
To receive two of these is rare, and it is a big honor, Blanton said. The most recent medals were awarded for service between October 2010 and March 2011.
The Bronze Star Medal is the militarys fourth highest combat award for bravery, heroism and meritorious service. The medals were presented by Col. Mitchel Butikofer, commander of the 78th Air Base Wing, in which both Blanton and Martinez serve.
Blanton, noted as an intrepid combat leader, led more than 100 combat counterintelligence missions, synchronizing efforts to pinpoint and defeat threats to coalition forces, according to a citation read during the ceremony.
His tactical skill helped the unit identify insurgents and facilitators and produce more than 400 critical intelligence reports, allowing teams to target high value persons, the citation stated.
As team leader, Blanton rapidly organized a joint operation to disable an improvised explosive device, saving lives along a critical coalition travel route, the citation reads. He also calmly directed his team during a vehicle rollover, resulting in no deaths.
The actions of Martinez, a tactical security element patrol leader, directly contributed to the protection of the Bagram security zone, 36,000 personnel and more than $3 billion in strategic war fighting assets, the citation stated.
He spearheaded battlespace maneuver plans for three special operations and coalition force units which captured or killed nine insurgents, the citation states. Finally, Sergeant Martinez orchestrated a joint operation that rendered safe a time sensitive improvised explosive device which saved the lives of local nationals and friendly forces.
Both men said they were honored and humbled by the recognition.
The biggest thing is to go over, bring everybody home, make a difference while youre over there, Blanton said of his time in Bagram, Afghanistan, where he was deployed with Martinez. While youre in the areas you really dont think about medals or the outcome.
Chief Master Sgt. Patrick Bowen, of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center and 78th Air Base Wing command chief, echoed that sentiment, adding that earning two Bronze Stars is unique, and a lot of people dont receive such medals.
Many folks accomplish great things during their deployments, but dont receive a Bronze Star, he said. Even being considered for a Bronze Star is quite a testament to the accomplishments of a person, but then it must go through a rigorous process and much scrutiny before it gets approved.
Blanton and Martinez each previously received a Bronze Star Medal in 2009 for their service in Iraq.
I thought I was lucky the first time, Martinez said. To get a second one is amazing.
To contact writer Caryn Grant, call 256-9751.