Friday, August 20, 2010

TOP STORY > >Officer earns Tuskegee award

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

An officer with the 48th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base has been recognized by the Tuskegee Airmen for his excellence in professional and community service.

Maj. James O’Brien, 48th AS scheduling flight commander, earned the Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Military Award in the field-grade officer category.

He was presented the award during the 39th annual Tuskegee Airmen National Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

“I’m very honored to even be considered (for this award),” said O’Brien.

As the scheduling flight commander, O’Brien programmed and tailored flying schedules to meet student and instructor requirements while managing a 4,656-flying hour program.

He instructs combat mission planning, tactical formation, night-vision goggle airdrop/airland procedures for the Air Force, other military branches and allied students.

O’Brien has spearheaded the Combined Federal Campaign for the 19th Operations Group and raised $249,000.

He also acted as team leader for the American Lung Association Stair Climb event, raising more than $500 toward research programs.

He credits the award to his teammates and co-workers.

“(This award) is really a reflection of all the people I work and fly with,” said O’Brien. “Everything I’ve done hasn’t been by myself; it’s always a team effort. Everyone I’ve worked with has been strong and dedicated to doing their job well.”

O’Brien also credits his mentors throughout the years for shaping him into who he is today.

“I’ve had a lot of great mentors starting with my parents and my family,” the major said.

Drawing inspiration from mentors from the Air Force Academy and his strong religious beliefs, O’Brien said he has been “very fortunate to have those people to look up to and take me under their wing.”

O’Brien excelled in education as well, completing a master of business administration degree with a 3.9 grade-point average despite having to juggle deployments and squadron duties.

The major believes the award speaks of Team Little Rock as a whole.

“This is a reflection of Team Little Rock and the C-130 community in general,” said O’Brien.

“Whether we are fund-raising through the CFC, doing community projects, such as outreach programs to local hospitals, going on deployments (every squadron always has someone deployed) and making the mission happen or training ... all those things are recognized by this award,” he said.

Earning the Air Force-level award impressed O’Brien’s superiors.

“Major O’Brien’s commitment to the Air Force core values and professionalism as a combat airlifter were recognized as continuing the character and service of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen,” said Col. C.K. Hyde, 314th Airlift Wing commander. “I can think of no better association or honor.”

Like many airmen, the major is familiar with the Tuskegee Airmen, what they stood for and is proud to be recognized by them.

“The Tuskegee Airmen were the epitome of airmen and officership,” he said. “Their dedication to country was unquestionable as well as the pride they had in their work. If we could work toward half of their work ethic and dedication, then we would be that much better off in serving this country.”

O’Brien had the honor of meeting members of the original Tuskegee Airmen earlier in his Air Force career.

“Several of them made the trip out to Balad Air Base, Iraq, a few years ago while I was deployed and also to Maxwell AFB where I was attending squadron-officer school,” he said. “There was a long line toget in there (to meet them) but it was well worth the wait.

“At the time, I held them in such high esteem. And now, several years later, to be recognized by their organization is such a huge honor,” O’Brien added.