The Spokesman-Review

Fairchild airman wins bronze star

Harold Sanders (left) stands with his son, United States Air Force Tech Sgt. Richard Sanders and tells him,
Harold Sanders (left) stands with his son, United States Air Force Tech Sgt. Richard Sanders and tells him, "I'm proud of you," at Fairchild Air Force Base on Wednesday. The tech sergeant had just been presented the bronze star by 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander Col. Robert Thomas. (Dan Pelle)

Tech. Sgt. Richard Sanders, a career airman from the Tri-Cities, was awarded the bronze star Wednesday at Fairchild Air Force Base for his effective command of large supply convoys on dangerous roads in Iraq.

“It’s an awesome thing to get recognized for the things you do,” Sanders said.

But he credited the personnel under his command for his success.

“I had a good team that helped me out,” he said in an interview after the ceremony. “They are the ones who got this award more than I did.”

Sanders, 36, was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Kacie Sanders, and his parents, Harold and Sally Sanders, of Finley, Wash.

He returned from Iraq in October after his eighth deployment there.

The Air Force said Sanders was being recognized for “exceptional meritorious service as convoy commander and squad leader for the 70th Medium Truck Detachment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

He led 14 convoy combat missions over 12,225 miles “along the world’s most treacherous highways,” the Air Force said in its narrative accompanying the award.

Sanders delivered more than 24,000 tons of war supplies, including weapons and ammunition to 23 forward operating bases. His success stemmed in part from an emphasis on caring for his vehicle operators and preventive maintenance, the Air Force said.

His missions were 99 percent successful, easily surpassing a goal of 90 percent efficiency. The convoys typically involved civilian contract workers as well as Air Force and Army personnel, he said.

During one mission involving more than 40 vehicles, the gun truck commander’s vehicle lost hydraulic steering at the same time that a pace setter vehicle lost its transmission.

Sanders quickly established a safe rallying point and gained a 360-degree security zone while his crews got the convoy moving again and back on schedule.

Sanders, who graduated from high school in Sequim, Wash., joined the Air Force in 1994 and was promoted to staff sergeant in 2000 and technical sergeant in 2004.

Sanders was raised in a military family. His father served in the Army and his grandfather in the Navy, but he chose the Air Force because he thought it offered a better chance to raise a family. He and his wife have three sons, ages 3, 10 and 12.

He has been stationed at four other air bases, including in South Korea and Japan.

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