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Awards and decorations topic of lunch and learn

120th Airlift Commander Col. Lee Smith discusses the importance of awards and decorations during his fourth scheduled lunch and learn event for Airmen held in the 120th AW Dining Facility on the base in Great Falls, Mont. November 6, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Commander Col. Lee Smith discusses the importance of awards and decorations during his fourth scheduled lunch and learn event for Airmen held in the 120th AW Dining Facility on the base in Great Falls, Mont. November 6, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Commander Col. Lee Smith takes a question on awards and decorations from Tech. Sgt. Lance Turner during his lunch and learn event for Airmen held in the 120th AW Dining Facility on the base in Great Falls, Mont. November 6, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Commander Col. Lee Smith takes a question on awards and decorations from Tech. Sgt. Lance Turner during his lunch and learn event for Airmen held in the 120th AW Dining Facility on the base in Great Falls, Mont. November 6, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- 120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith discussed the topic of awards and decorations during his fourth scheduled lunch and learn event held in the 120th AW Dining Facility November 6.

Lunch and learns provides the opportunity for Airmen to receive current information from leadership on professional Air Force subject matter while enjoying lunch.

Col. Smith said according to wing policy there are basic requirements to complete when putting together an awards package for an Airman.

"You'll need a report of their fitness, all performance reports during the award period, a RIP (report on individual personnel) so we can understand the past history-when was the last time the individual received a medal," Col. Smith said. "Because ideally you don't want to have gaps between medals as long as they've been a solid-performing Airman."

Col. Smith noted that some drill status guardsmen may not have an officer performance report (OPR) or enlisted performance report (EPR) during the award timeframe. In this case, use another supporting document such as a deployment letter of evaluation (LOE) or a narrative signed by the commander or supervisor testifying to the quality of the Airman's service during the timeframe.

Individuals interested in nominating an Airman who may have previous problems in their career history may still consider writing the award.

"My philosophy and wing policy is that negative information doesn't necessarily automatically disqualify an Airman for award consideration," Col. Smith said. "However, if there is some negative information in an Airman's history then it's incumbent upon the nominator to justify why they still deserve it."

Col. Smith said there are many opportunities to find for writing award packages. Airmen may transfer to units in another state, change assignments between differing units, or separate from the wing or retire.

"Again, my personal philosophy is-especially for retirements-I'm looking at the entire Airman's career," Col. Smith said. "Even if a member failed a PT test in the past three years, if their entire career has been exemplary then I think we owe it to that Airman to give them that medal going out the door."

Col. Smith said an award presented for achievement is usually based on a single event which may take place over a long period of time, such as an aircraft conversion. He said he was pleased to see squadron commanders submit Airmen for medals relating to the 120th AW end of conversion to the C-130 Hercules airlift mission.

"I think for the two and a half year period we were going through conversion if you had an Airman who performed at a high level during that period and significantly contributed to the wing's successful completion of the end of conversion then it was a perfect opportunity to nominate an Airman," Col. Smith said.

Col. Smith said extended tours also provide an excellent opportunity to recognize Airmen in the wing. The minimum length of time served in an extended tour is every three to four years.

"Ideally, every three to four years we're writing a package on an Airman so we have constant recognition of their contributions over that period," Col. Smith said. "That does not mean every single Airman gets a medal every three to four years. Your best and brightest, every three to four years should be getting a medal." 

Col. Smith said awards and decorations are extremely important for an individual's career progression in a competitive environment.

Airmen being considered for a promotion, a special award or a staff position in an outside organization should have a record showing levels of increasing recognition.

Col. Smith said one Airman's package may show just one or two medals earned over a 20 year career while another Airman's package may contain numerous Air Force Achievement Medals, Air Force Commendation Medals and Air Force Meritorious Service Medals.

"You look at those two records, side by side, and it paints a very compelling picture to a board," Col. Smith said. "All things being equal, the person who's recognized more will always score out higher."
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