YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — During Operation Iraqi Freedom in early 2003, Col. Bob Harvey had a unique vantage point on the war.

As deputy director of the newly created Air Component Coordination Element at Camp Doha, Kuwait, he guided an elite 20-member, multinational team responsible for integrating air power with the ground attack in joint combat operations.

From the command center, ACCE tracked coalition forces in real time as they advanced on Baghdad, always careful not to place them in the line of friendly air support.

For his service, Harvey earned the Bronze Star on Friday for meritorious achievement. Lt. Gen. Thomas Waskow, commander of U.S. Forces Japan and the 5th Air Force, presented the medal in a brief ceremony at the Yokota Officers’ Club.

“Today, we recognize one of our senior leaders for his accomplishments. But more importantly, it’s his accomplishments in a combat zone,” Waskow said. “That’s who we are, and that’s what we do.

“This was one of those innovative ideas the Air Force had during the war. It’s special for me to be here today to honor one of our own.”

Harvey, the 605th Air Operations Group commander at Yokota, was sent to Kuwait in February 2003. Acting in a liaison role on the highest leadership levels, he provided air-power perspective and advice to the senior ground commanders engineering the war.

“The first lesson there: Be ready,” Harvey said. “That’s what we do in the military.

“The most important thing we had to do was translate Air Force concepts into the Army and Marines operations. It was all about being heard, understood and acknowledged.”

He said the 20-member team tackled “groundbreaking stuff,” but its implementation turned out to be a delicate process.

According to the medal citation, Harvey’s expertise of the new operational concepts “led to the rapid defeat of the Iraqi regime, its armed forces, and death squads.”

“He led team participation in the targeting process, resulting in unprecedented coordination and responsiveness for air support of ground forces,” the citation stated.

“During combat operations, Colonel Harvey noticed friendly forces would soon advance beyond the fire support coordination line and quickly coordinated a change to the airspace control order, thereby negating a possible blue-on-blue situation. His actions undoubtedly saved lives.”

Harvey said he was humbled by the award and honored to be part of that 20-member unit in Kuwait.

“We were able to make an impact,” he said. “We literally wrote the book on the ACCE concept. I’m very proud to be part of that, and very proud to be part of a huge victory.

“But the real heroes are the kids out there on the front lines. The stories I could tell, would make anybody’s eyes water. If I could shake the hands of every one of our ground guys, I would — to thank them for the jobs they do. They deserve our full support.”

The Bronze Star is awarded to U.S. armed forces members serving in a combat situation who have distinguished themselves by heroism, outstanding achievement or meritorious service.

The award was established in 1944 by an executive order issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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