By Emily Baker
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – They might blend in with soldiers at the Army's largest post, but three of Fort Hood's 500 airmen are so impressive, the highest levels of the Air Force have noticed them.
Three airmen representing the three air support operations squadrons at Fort Hood have been named top in their jobs in the entire Air Force and are traveling to Washington this week to receive awards.
Staff Sgt. Francis E. Lott III, of the 11th Air Support Operations Squadron, is receiving the SSgt Jacob Frazier TACP JTAC Award, which is named after Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier, who was killed in Afghanistan. The award is given to the top joint terminal attack controller, or JTAC, who, with an apprentice or journeyman, makes up the tactical air control party, or TACP.
The tactical air control party travels with soldiers to coordinate the Army's battlefield with airpower.
Senior Airman Andre J. Andrews, of the 9th Air Support Operations Squadron, is receiving the A1C Raymond Losano TACP Award, which is named after Airman 1st Class Raymond Losano, who was killed in action in Afghanistan. The award is given to the top tactical air control party apprentice or journeyman, the person who operates and maintains the joint terminal attack controller's radio.
Staff Sgt. Christopher P. Avalos, of the 712th Air Support Operations Squadron, is receiving the Fighter Duty Technician Award. A fighter duty technician acts essentially as a dispatcher. When a joint terminal attack controller radios for air cover, the fighter duty technician rallies the proper kind of airpower.
"They are the heroes who make it happen in combat," said Lt. Col. Robert Beckel, commander of the 11th squadron. "They've done brilliantly. What it's all about is protecting our Army brethren so they're not alone when they're doing their job."
While Avalos is receiving his award for consistent excellence during a deployment to Afghanistan last year, Lott and Andrews are receiving their awards because of a particular incident.
During a deployment to Iraq last year, Lott was told by an F-15 Eagle fighter pilot that some people were fleeing a town after the Army arrived. Lott worked with information provided by the pilot to guide soldiers to apprehending three people who were Top 10 targets.
Andrews came under attack with machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades during a deployment to Afghanistan last year. He shot back and managed to push the enemy far enough away that a B-1 Lancer bomber could drop explosives on the enemy without hurting friendly forces. All the while, Andrews had to communicate to his joint terminal attack controller through the B-1 pilots, an unorthodox approach, because of radio shortfalls.
Avalos controlled 4,800 sorties during his five months in Afghanistan. While a typical deployment involves controlling around 6,000 sorties, Avalos said, his work resulted in dropping 262,931 pounds of munitions.
The three airmen are spending most of this week in Washington, where they will receive their awards in a ceremony Wednesday at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes. While in Washington, the airmen are scheduled to meet with some of the Air Force's and government's leadership, including U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock. They also are scheduled for tours of the area's landmarks.
"It's great to get recognized, but we're just doing what we're trained to do," Lott said.
Contact Emily Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7559