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Lt. Col. Richard J. Dieringer of Yokota Air Base proudly wears the Bronze Star Medal and Air Medal he was awarded Friday for his service while deployed to Uzbekistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Lt. Col. Richard J. Dieringer of Yokota Air Base proudly wears the Bronze Star Medal and Air Medal he was awarded Friday for his service while deployed to Uzbekistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A lieutenant colonel here has two new medals to show for the more than 100 days he spent supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Richard J. Dieringer received the Bronze Star Medal and Air Medal from 374th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Mark Schissler during a brief ceremony Friday morning.

The Bronze Star was awarded for commanding 175 people and six C-130H aircraft while deployed to Uzbekistan, and the Air Medal was earned on the fly.

Typically, the Air Medal is presented for a specific number of missions in a combat zone, Dieringer said, noting his is for a single event.

As commander of 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron from Dec. 12, 2002, to April 26, Dieringer and his aircrews were tasked to support a resupply mission of U.S. forces conducting offensive operations in Afghanistan’s Bagram Valley “in pursuit of what we would refer to as high-value targets,” he said.

Once U.S. forces arrived in the area, they realized they needed more supplies, Dieringer said. With few roads and no rail in Afghanistan, two C-130s were loaded to drop rations, ammunition, vehicle parts and “almost anything you can imagine,” he said.

During the mission, as the two birds slowed for the airdrop, a container in the plane Dieringer was piloting buckled and opened, with 9,000 pounds of supplies spilling throughout the airplane.

Due to the plane’s altitude and other factors, it was unable to muster enough power to climb out of the valley, he said. Emergency procedures were initiated and loadmasters worked feverishly to rebundle the supplies while the cockpit kept an eye out for population centers and any potential threats.

“We were able to rearrange the load, come back within 21 minutes and drop the load,” Dieringer said. “It was a pretty intense 21 minutes.”

For the Bronze Star Medal, Dieringer — who at the time was assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas — directed 175 personnel and 24-hour operations of six C-130H aircraft near Karshi- Khanabad, Uzbekistan. His airmen safely executed more than 800 combat sorties spanning 1,400 hours.

The Bronze Star for heroism, outstanding achievement or meritorious service not involving aerial flight can be awarded to military serving in a combat theater.

Dieringer was cited for meritorious achievement.

“To me, being awarded the Bronze Star is a testament to the dedication of the folks I got to work with at Dyess,” said Dieringer, Command Center chief. “We got everybody home with no injuries, no bent airplanes. We were running the airplanes and the people very, very hard.”

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