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Perry Honors 86th Airlift Wing

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

RAMSTEIN AFB, Germany, Dec. 19, 1996 – Despite severe weather and sniper fire, the U.S. Air Force's 86th Airlift Wing kept supplies flowing during Operations Provide Comfort and Joint Endeavor.

During a stop here Dec. 16 on the way to NATO meetings in Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry thanked the wing for its efforts and presented awards to three airmen of the 37th Airlift Squadron, 86th Operations Group.


Perry presented Air Medals to Lt. Col. John P. Bloom Jr., Staff Sgt. Randall E. Anderson and Senior Airman Timothy L. Gonzales for their actions during a mission to Bosnia.


Bloom managed to get his crew and damaged C-130 safely to friendly territory after the aircraft was strafed by machine gun fire while landing at Sarajevo airport April 8, 1995. Bloom's skill and airmanship earned the Air Medal with First Oak Leaf Cluster.


Anderson and Gonzales were both aboard Bloom's aircraft that day in April. They were in the paratroop door doing spotter duty when the plane came under fire.


Gonzalez' communications cord was severed by an incoming round, but he maintained his composure and moved to the flight deck to alert the crew.


Anderson reported a round had hit the auxiliary hydraulic system causing a leak. He alerted the flight deck crew so they could shut off the system and reduce the danger of smoke and toxic fumes.


Anderson earned an Air Medal and Gonzales earned an Air Medal with Fourth Oak Leaf Cluster for their efforts in saving the crew and aircraft.


Along with commending Bloom, Anderson and Gonzales, Perry praised the wing for its help in bringing peace to Bosnia.


"The Dayton agreement stopped the killing on paper," said Perry, "But it took NATO's IFOR -- transported, supplied and provisioned by the 86th Wing -- to stop the killing on the ground."


Perry told about 1,000 airmen gathered in a hangar the wing will continue supporting Bosnia operations to help ensure the success of NATO's follow-on force. "It won't be the first time we have relied on the 86th," Perry said.


"Early in the Bosnian crisis, it was the 86th that flew dangerous missions over combat zones and dropped food, medicine and emergency supplies to refugees," he said. "Your tireless around-the-clock efforts became famous as the longest sustained airlift in history -- longer than even the Berlin airlift."


Once the IFOR mission was under way, Perry said, the 86th landed the very first aircraft at Tuzla, Task Force Eagle headquarters. "This was the first of thousands of sorties bringing all the materials our troops needed to fight a war if necessary, or to build the peace, which we succeeded at doing," he said.


And for the wing, the mission continues. "Even as the IFOR operation winds to a close, the 86th Wing hasn't missed a beat," Perry said, "hauling IFOR troops and equipment out of Bosnia and turning right around to haul troops and equipment back for the [stabilizing force] mission."

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