AN IPSWICH-based RAAF wing commander has been awarded a high level American citation for his service in the Afghanistan conflict.
Andrew Lancaster was the subject of a surprise presentation of the Bronze Star Medal, the fourth-highest honour given by the American military. The air force organised for his wife Sue and daughter Eleanor to be at Amberley to see him receive it.
Wing Commander Lancaster spent nine months on a multi-national air base in Tarin Kowt, firstly as an airspace control officer, then as chief of staff, having been promoted after just two months. He conducted a review of the airspace control system that was in place when he arrived in Afghanistan, introducing a new, more efficient plan that incorporated a robust communications system.
As chief of staff, he was in charge of combined Australian and American personnel at the brigade headquarters, known as Combined Team Uruzgan. In a brief that accompanied the award, the Ipswich wing commander was described as the backbone of a cohesive fighting unit.
"His proactive approach, refusal to accept less than the highest standards of performance, skilful co-ordination and exemplary leadership earned him the highest respect among the coalition both within the Combined Team and Regional Command South," the brief said.
In presenting the medal, Combat Support Commander Air Commodore Tim Innes said Wing Commander Lancaster excelled after his promotion.
"This award is a great reflection on the calibre of the people we have here in Combat Support," Air Commodore Innes said.
Wing Commander Lancaster said he was humbled to have received the Bronze Star.
"It is a great privilege," he said.
"The teamwork and professionalism was world-class - it didn't matter what problems they were faced with - they were always up to the challenge."
Wing Commander Lancaster said he was inspired by the way his staff battled on even after the death in action of members of the team.
Thirteen people - Australians and Americans - were killed during his time in Tarin Kowt.
"Whenever we lost someone we lost a member of the team - the Star Spangled Banner and Advance Australia Fair will never be the same again for me, but to see the way people bounced back after that is hard to explain.
"What it really brings out is a sense of pride, of mateship and determination all rolled into one."
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