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Randolph Airman who served in Iraqi IZ receives AETC award

By Robert Goetz | Wingspread staff writer | Dec. 27, 2007

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — A Randolph Airman who commanded a flight that provided security in the Iraqi International Zone has earned an Air Education and Training Command award. 

Second Lt. Gilbert Wyche, 12th Security Forces Squadron Officer in charge of logistics and resources, has been named recipient of AETC's 2008 Department of Defense African American History Month Recognition Award. 

The announcement cited Lieutenant Wyche's accomplishments in leading a flight of the 332nd Expeditionary Wing, a 35-person team responsible for Iraqi IZ security, from February to September. 

"He was the first Airman on scene to the worst indirect fire attack in Iraqi International Zone history," the announcement said. "Despite 37 mortar impacts, he directed his Airmen to cordon and evacuate the impact sites, which saved numerous lives." 

It also noted that Lieutenant Wyche "raced to aid a severely wounded soldier to initiate combat life-saving resuscitation and continued the medical aid during transport to the combat support hospital during ongoing attacks." 

Lieutenant Wyche, who has been assigned to Randolph since returning from Iraq, said the entire flight deserves the award. 

"This is more of an award for the flight I commanded," he said. "My NCOs are a big part of the award. Without them it couldn't have happened." 

Lieutenant Wyche was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., just nine months removed from college, when he was called to command the flight in central Baghdad's 6-square-mile "Green Zone," home to the United States, British and Japanese embassies; members of Iraq's parliament; and 20,000 Iraqi citizens. 

"Our mission was to maintain law and order," he said. "There was any kind of response you can imagine. In 200 days, there were 75 rocket attacks with more than 270 impacts."
On July 10, during the worst indirect fire attack in International Zone history, Lieutenant Wyche risked his life rushing out in the street to a contractor suffering from blast injuries. The contractor lost one of his lower legs. 

"Mortars were landing in the street near us," he said. "But I was able to carry him to a bunker." 

During another incident Lieutenant Wyche attended to a fatally wounded soldier with multiple blast injuries and prepared him for transport to a combat support hospital.
Lieutenant Wyche said training helped prepare him and members of his flight for their demanding duties in the war-ravaged Green Zone. 

"When it was happening, we were trained so well that we just reacted," he said.
Lieutenant Wyche said his upbringing in Chicago and Orlando, Fla., and his Reserve Officers Training Corps experience at Clemson University also contributed to his mindset. 

"Clemson ROTC trained me extremely well," he said. "My father instilled in me basic mental aspects, especially self-discipline." 

Lieutenant Wyche said the events of Sept. 11, 2001, compelled him to seriously consider a military career. He was in high school at the time. 

"I went to Clemson, which is a former military school," he said. "I got started and never looked back." 

He also decided to choose security forces as his career field. 

"That was my number one career field choice," he said. "I had the best chance to lead troops and be an active participant in the Global War on Terror." 

Lieutenant Wyche's chance came early - when he led a flight in an area that was fraught with danger every day. They found suicide vests and multiple suspect vehicles, neutralized threats and picked up known criminal insurgents. 

"We knew we were making the area safer," he said. "The low point was when people lost lives. The high point was that we used our skills and people survived."
Lieutenant Wyche now moves on to the Air Force-level competition.