Maryland Air National Guardsman receives Bronze Star Medal Published May 2, 2008 By Lt. Col. Charles Kohler Public Affairs Officer BALTIMORE -- The Maryland National Guard today announced the awarding of the Bronze Star Medal to Col. Brian Neal, commander of the Maryland Air National Guard's 135th Airlift Group, for meritorious achievement while serving on active duty in Iraq. During the first six months of 2007, Neal served on active duty as commander of the U.S. Air Force's 447th Air Expeditionary Group, 332d Air Expeditionary Wing at Sather Air Base, Baghdad International Airport. The official recognition ceremony took place at Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River, Md. "Colonel Neal represents the best that Maryland has to offer," said Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, the adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard. "Recognition of this caliber is indicative of the quality of the men and women who continue to serve our nation at home and abroad, often times under harsh and extreme conditions. Most importantly, we thank Col. Neal and his family for their collective sacrifice and service." The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to an individual who, while serving in or with the United States military, distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service while involved in military action against an armed enemy. The truncated citation for the medal reads as follows: "....Under (Col. Neal's) combat leadership, aircraft operations continued unabated despite constant exposure to regular enemy rocket and mortar attacks. Additionally, more than 130,000 passengers were processed through the largest air passenger hub in Iraq and over 32,000 short-tons of critical war fighter cargo was flown on more than 5,000 fixed and rotary wing sorties. He oversaw explosive ordnance operations in Iraq's deadliest sector resulting in over 325 safe explosive devices and collection of over 100 pieces of post blast forensic evidence. Colonel Neal demonstrated his superb political military skills during visits by the United States Secretary of State, United States Secretary of Defense, United Nations distinguished visitors, numerous Congressional delegations as well as nongovernmental agencies. His outstanding combat planning and exercises ensured personnel were fully postured for any type of attack. His foreign object damage abatement program removed over 10,200 pounds of hazards from the runway and ramp and initiated a 500,000 dollar emergency runway repair plan. Finally, he was instrumental in the bed down of the 3rd Infantry Division, Combat Aviation Brigade's 2,800 soldiers and 115 helicopters on Sather Air Base in less than six weeks, critical to the Multi-National Corps campaign plan. The exemplary leadership, personal endeavor, and devotion to duty displayed by Colonel Neal in this responsible position reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force." More than 1,400 citizen-soldiers and airmen assigned to the Maryland National Guard are currently serving on active duty in the Global War on Terror. Since 9/11 nearly 7,400 Soldiers and Airmen have been called to support Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle, Jump Start and in the relief effort for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.