Robins airmen honored for heroics

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE — The five airmen stood at attention in the small room, graciously accepting the whoops and applause from fellow squad members Monday.

Bronze Stars were presented to Master Sgts. William Craig and Carlos DoRego and Tech. Sgt. Edward Canell; the Air Force Combat Action Medal went to Tech Sgt. Derrick Lee and Staff Sgt. Charlyn Grayson. The awards were for their actions while they were deployed to Iraq.

Col. Warren Berry, 78th Air Base Wing commander, made the presentations after telling the assembled squad, family and friends the five “went above and beyond the call of duty” in their actions.

The details of those actions still are under wraps as many of the missions they undertook still are classified, said Lt. Chrissy Keeler-Miner, base public affairs officer.

Craig was deployed from April 16-Oct. 13, 2008; DoRego and Canell from May 29-Dec. 1, 2008; Lee in 2005 and Grayson in 2007, according to a release from the air base.

The Bronze Star, instituted in 1944, is presented to those who have distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States, Berry said, and is the fourth highest award for the military.

The Air Force Combat Action Medal is one of the newest, and was first awarded in June 2007, he said. The medal is for action taken in a combat zone away from an installation where one engages the enemy or returns fire.

“Both these awards demonstrate what you already know,” Berry said. “Our mission has changed drastically.” In the past, he continued, it was just those who flew aircraft who faced enemy fire. Today, airmen share that task.

“You do what you are called to do,” he said.

Canell’s wife, Rhonda, who is a 16-year veteran of the Air Force, said his deployment was difficult because their new son was just 2 months old at the time.

“I was home with a brand-new baby,” she said. “Yes, it was a stressful time.”

She said they kept in touch almost daily with e-mail and talked weekly on the telephone.

“The hardest part of the deployment was being away from my boy,” Canell said.

He added that he could return to Iraq. “It depends on when my time comes back up.”