Meritorious achievement, leadership leads to recognition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Collette Brooks
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Maj. Chad Swinehart, 6th Attack Squadron director of operations, was presented the Bronze Star Medal here, Oct. 26, for his meritorious achievement while deployed to Southwest Asia.

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.

From June 15, 2019 – Jan. 15, 2020, Swinehart served as the director of operations and air advisor of the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron and the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing.

During this time, Swinehart engaged in operations against opposing armed forces while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Swinehart led the tactical operations of the sole U.S. Air Force Air Advisory Squadron engaging Iraqi Army Aviation Command during a period in which he was targeted by 107 millimeter rocket fire on multiple instances.

With countless hours of enduring uncertain moments, Swinehart explained what kept him resilient during those challenging times.

“The biggest challenge on the personal side was being away from my family,” he said. “However, we managed through frequent letters, phone calls and video calls.”

With the support of his family, Swinehart was able to continue his mission of leading military personnel and linguists from three nations and 18 distinct specialty career fields, in the integration and advancement of Iraq’s rotary wing mission. This was in direct support of the Iraqi Air Enterprise’s kinetic strikes against Da’esh fighters.

In this new and unique leadership role, Swinehart faced some challenges due to leading a variety of Airmen that came from a variety of different career fields.

“I overcame that challenge of leading those various Airmen from different career fields by asking a lot of questions,” said Swinehart. “Listening and trying to learn the details is what I needed in order to effectively lead. It also required a tremendous amount of trust in the Airmen.”

While Swinehart’s personal and professional challenges put his resiliency to the test, he described how he overcame the most difficult challenge of them all, the enemy threat.

“The way we overcame the enemy threat was to fight against complacency and maintain readiness and vigilance,” said Swinehart. “It’s impossible to maintain that at a constant level for an entire deployment, so we worked to provide opportunities for a relaxed environment at the squadron. This enabled the appropriate level of vigilance when needed.”

Swinehart defied these various challenges by staying motivated and ready with the support of his team.

“Camaraderie with the rest of the squadron and focus on the mission were the biggest factors to maintaining resilience,” said Swinehart. “We worked hard to create a family culture in the squadron to keep morale high. I am incredibly proud of all the work that the 370th AEAS did and everything we accomplished.”

With the complexity and various taskers associated with his deployment, Swinehart’s biggest take away from his deployed experience was the power of making strong and everlasting relationships.

“As air advisors, our ability to create and maintain relationships enabled and empowered us to accomplish the mission,” said Swinehart. “That skill set and mentality also applied to our relationships with other U.S. and coalition organizations as well as the relationships within our own squadron. I was amazed at all the things we were able to accomplish and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles we were able to overcome purely through our ability to build effective relationships both inside and outside the wire.”

While Swinehart built upon the cohesion among his deployed brothers and sister, Swinehart’s leadership back at Holloman reflected on his vast range of personal strengths.

“Major Swinehart’s resiliency, intelligence and leadership is truly inspiring,” said Lt. Col. Lindsay Totten, 6th Attack Squadron commander. “The bravery and courage he showed while deployed is the same work ethic and dedication he displays here at Holloman. This prestigious recognition is a testament of his personal and professional strength.”

Additionally, Swinehart described his time deployed as the most rewarding experience in his career thus far.