DAYTON, Ohio -- Maj. Steve Raspet looks at the mannequin that represents him and some of the artifacts he donated as part of the new "Warrior Airmen" exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Major Raspet, 12th Operations Group T-6 Standards and Evaluation branch chief and instructor pilot at Randolph Air Force Base, was one of the first Airmen to have the Combat Action Medal awarded to after he and his copilot provided air cover and close air support during a joint Afghan Army and U.S. Army operation while deployed in 2006. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Jeff Fisher)
RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas —
One of the first Airmen to earn a Combat Action Medal is donating his award, alongside others, to the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Maj. Steve Raspet, 12th Operations Group T-6 standards and evaluation branch chief and instructor pilot, was recognized Tuesday during the opening of an exhibition on the Air Force's participation in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Major Raspet received the medal in January 2007 from former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley. Shortly after, he thought about donating the medal and other items from his deployment.
"I didn't want them to sit on a mantle or lie in a closet somewhere," the major said, "so I contacted the museum and said I'd like to donate the items. It was good timing because they were getting together the exhibit on the Air Force's participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom."
He's also donating shells expended from his main gun on the A-10 Thunderbolt during the medal-winning sortie.
On that Jan. 8, 2006, sortie, Major Raspet was the flight lead of two A-10 Thunderbolts from the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
He was called to provide air cover and close air support during a joint Afghan Army-U.S. Army operation when friendlies were in heavy contact with the enemy.
During his 13-minute flight, friendlies were taking increasing enemy fire. Major Raspet and his wingman destroyed eight stationary vehicles exposed in the middle of a large, dried-up riverbed. Then friendlies started to take more enemy fire from a building located west of the friendly convoy's last vehicle.
When friendly forces requested cover from the major and his wingman, a .50-caliber machine gunner marked the enemy location. Major Raspet and his wingman then suppressed the enemy.
The friendly convoy, which had been impacted by improvised explosive devices earlier the same day, moved out toward it's forward operating base as Major Raspet and his wingman made show-of-force passes near the convoy to deter further enemy attacks.
After the major received the medal for his actions that day, he contacted Tech. Sgt. Shannon Craig, one of the controllers on the ground with the convoy. He found the sergeant was donating some of his equipment items used that day to the exhibit. So he followed suit and offered his items to the exhibit.
The major, who described himself as a military history buff, said he was basically left speechless when he found out his items would be displayed in the exhibit alongside Sergeant Craig.
"I just didn't know what to say," he added.
"Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom are a tremendous part of our country's history," said Col. Jeffrey Brown, 12th Operations Group deputy commander. "The Air Force has obviously played a large role in the success of these operations. It is certainly fitting that they should develop a museum display to honor the professionalism, sacrifice, and bravery of men and women like Major Raspet.
"Steve is an exceptional officer and warrior and the perfect choice to represent his fellow Airmen in documenting the Air Force piece of these important historical events," Colonel Brown said.
Major Raspet said his mission was a typical and ordinary one for attack pilots based in Afghanistan at that time; a mission he was glad to be part of.
"There's no better mission than supporting the men on the ground," he said. "And the amount of responsibility that young lieutenants and captains flying those sorties have is tremendous."
Major Raspet said he's thankful to the pararescuemen, combat controllers and Soldiers and Airmen in convoys whose items will also be included in the display -- and he looks forward to seeing it.