01/24/11 — Squadron gets top unit award from Air Force

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Squadron gets top unit award from Air Force

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 24, 2011 1:46 PM

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Staff Sgt. Lewis Wilder works to repair kitchen equipment at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in preparation for an inspection.

It was Christmas -- a day most Wayne County residents spent sharing warm embraces and hot meals with family members and loved ones.

But for members of the 4th Fighter Wing Civil Engineer Squadron, an ice storm that began blanketing Goldsboro and the towns that surround it late that evening meant a duty to fulfill.

None complained.

"There was a power outage ... so we had seven or eight different shops, from power to generator folks ... and you walk around and they were just so happy they could contribute to what was going on that day," said Col. Mandy Birch, the squadron's commander. "That attitude really distinguishes this unit."

The 4th CES -- a group that covers everything from heating, ventilation, air conditioning and water and sewer to entomology, explosive ordnance disposal, refuse and recycling -- was recently awarded the Air Force's Curtin Award, an honor given to the most outstanding unit of its kind.

Col. Birch, though, was not all that surprised.

"This squadron felt different to me when I walked into it than any other squadron I've ever been a part of," she said. "It is an attitude -- an enthusiasm about what they do here. You know, these guys are deployed for six months out of every year and they're still excited about what they are doing.

"So I can look around at the squadron and say, 'Look at this group of people. There's airmen in uniform, our civilian airmen, contractors ... and every single one of them had to be performing at a level of excellence to win an award like this.'"

His face void of expression, 4th Commander Col. Patrick Doherty stood before members of the CES.

"Everybody was looking around. They didn't know if something good or something bad had happened," Col. Birch said. "He gave them the news and you could see the smiles spread across people's faces."

But in the days since he made that announcement, those airmen under his command haven't rested on their laurels.

"It says a lot about the airmen and the humility they have," Birch said. "It's really service before self around here.

"But I still hear people talking about it. I think they're going to be talking about it for a while. You know, we have some of the toughest, dirtiest, hardest jobs on the base. No one comes in and says, 'Wow, I'm so glad my light switch works today' or 'I'm really glad my plumbing works today.' But there are people behind the scenes who make all that happen."