JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Commander Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox awarded the Bronze Star to Capt. Shane Lockridge at a commander’s call Feb. 13.
Lockridge serves as the chief of military construction requirements for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, a subordinate unit of AFIMSC. He received the award for his performance as director of operations and engineer advisor for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from March 2018 to February 2019.
The Bronze Star is awarded to those who demonstrate heroic or meritorious achievement of service in a combat zone in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.
“It’s important for everybody in this center to know that this is what our folks do when they deploy each and every day … going out there, taking the fight to the enemy and taking care of our folks while doing it,” Wilcox said. “Captain Lockridge, it is an honor to be standing with you.”
What makes the captain’s accomplishments even more impressive is he volunteered for the tour, which was also his first deployment. He gives credit and appreciation to the team he led.
“I had the honor of leading a team of 126 personnel tasked to bolster the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force’s engineering, security forces, logistics and communications squadrons,” Lockridge said. “Without their support and mentorship, I would have never been able to accomplish anything worth this honor.”
He and his team were assigned to the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, composed of more than 85 coalition members, including partners from the United States, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine and Belgium. The group assists, trains and advises the Kandahar Air Wing in order to provide support to coalition counterinsurgency operations. Advisers mentor their Afghan counterparts across a range of functions including flight operations, aircraft maintenance, intelligence, logistics, personnel management, communications and base defense.
His squadron commander during his deployment, Maj. Kristina Sawtelle of the 443rd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, recalled the environment they were in and the work Lockridge performed.
“Our base was a significant target for attacks as it was a strategic base for the U.S. military, NATO and the Afghan National Army and Air Force,” Sawtelle said. “There were countless nights that were spent in bunkers with incoming sirens going off. Captain Lockridge was asked to serve in two major roles during his deployment as lead engineering air advisor with the one of the largest portfolios in Southern Afghanistan and the director of operations for the largest and most diverse air advisor squadron in the 738th.”
She emphasized that the level of work he performed further signified the level of achievement he demonstrated throughout his deployment.
“While exposed to significant threat streams to include rocket attacks, mortars and insider-threats, the train, advise, assist mission put Captain Lockridge shoulder-to-shoulder with our Afghan partners,” Sawtelle said. “His construction portfolio was extremely dynamic; however, one of his major projects was a multimillion dollar Kandahar airfield renovation. The construction would allow for the successful build of the Afghan Air Force’s light attack, armed aircraft. The operating environment came with significant risk that was mitigated through continuous tactics, training and procedures exercises, live-fire drills, and security assessments.”
As the only engineering officer in the 738th AEAG, he was also in charge of project development, funds procurement and construction execution of 12 projects worth $57 million. These projects included construction and renovation to assist in growing the Afghan Air Force mission by standing up the first Afghan UH-60 squadron 18 months ahead of schedule. In addition to bolstering the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force, Lockridge also participated in providing security and force protection to the entire 738th AEAG.
“We endured multiple rocket attacks,” Lockridge said. “We were in constant exposure for possible green-on-blue insider attacks, and we were able to perform 135 outside-the-wire missions, which were done at a time when we were facing opposing forces there at Khandahar Airfield.”
The airfield renovation was a significant accomplishment for Lockridge and his team. Enabling the beddown not only established the first-ever Afghan Air Force Blackhawk squadron ahead of schedule, but increased Afghan Air Force combat capabilities to progress toward operational independence.
“The challenges and adversity our engineers overcame during this project were tremendous and I was truly proud to be a member of the team,” he said. “I was part of something bigger than myself and am honored every day to work with some of the greatest people this world has ever seen.”