Friday, January 23, 2009

Major's medal, artifacts on display at Air Force museum

(Updated 25 January 2009)

by Sean Bowlin
12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Maj. Steve Raspet, a former A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with the 354th Fighter Squadron, looks at the mannequin that represents him and some of the artifacts he donated as part of the new "Warrior Airmen" exhibit on January 13th, 2009, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Major Raspet, the 12th Operations Group T-6A Texan II standards and evaluation branch chief and instructor pilot at Randolph AFB, Texas, was one of the first Airmen to earn the Air Force Combat Action Medal after he and his wingman 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 by Jeff Fisher) Hi-res

1/22/2009 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- One of the first Airmen to earn an Air Force Combat Action Medal donated his award, alongside others, to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Maj. Steve Raspet, the 12th Operations Group T-6A Texan II standards and evaluation branch chief and an instructor pilot at Randolph AFB, was recognized Jan. 14 during the opening of an exhibition on the Air Force's participation in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

"Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom are a tremendous part of our country's history," said Col. Jeffrey Brown, the 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."

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 lay in a closet somewhere, so I contacted the museum and said I'd like to donate the items," the major said. "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 also donated shells expended from his main gun on the A-10 Thunderbolt II during the medal-winning sortie.

On that Jan. 8, 2006, sortie, Major Raspet was the flight lead of two A-10s from the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

He was called to provide air cover and close-air support during a joint Afghan army and 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 as friendlies started receiving 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. Then, Major Raspet and his wingman suppressed the enemy.

The friendly convoy, which was impacted by improvised explosive devices earlier the same day, moved out toward its 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 out the sergeant was donating some of his equipment items used that day to the exhibit, so the major followed suit.

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's.

"I just didn't know what to say," he said.

"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 looks forward to seeing it.


Note: This is an edited version of a news article already released on Randolph AFB's public website on January 16th, 2009.

Related news:
Museum opens exhibit dedicated to 'Warrior Airmen' (14 January 2009)
Air Force Awards First Combat Action Medals (12 June 2007)
(This DoD source stated: Raspet is an A-10 pilot with the 354th Fighter Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. While deployed to Afghanistan on Jan. 8, 2006, Raspet was the flight lead of a two ship of A-10s tasked to cover a joint Afghan/U.S. Army operation. He responded to a convoy's request for close air support as they were taking fire from a building adjacent to their route. After confirming the exact location of coalition forces, Raspet executed several low roll-ins to place weapons on target. Despite communications problems and the imminent threat of ground fire, he eliminated the threat, continued to provide presence, and deterred further attack for nearly an hour as the convoy transited the ambush area.)

Related link:
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Related USAF photos, displayed on the new "Warrior Airmen" exhibit:

Maj. Steve Raspet (left) and his wingman 1Lt. Andrew Tenebaum the day after the June 12 mission. (U.S. Air Force photo) Hi-res

Like other A-10 pilots, Maj. Raspet used a saddle bag placed on the dashboard to carry maps, pens and other necessities. This saddlebag is now on display in the hand of a mannequin in the Warrior Airmen exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo) Hi-res

Maj. Steve Raspet returning from a mission in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo) Hi-res

The first Combat Action Medals were awarded to six Airmen on June 12, 2007. (Front row, left to right): Maj. Steven Raspet, SMSgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez, Capt. Allison Black. Back row, left to right: MSgt. Byron Allen, MSgt. Charlie Peterson, SSgt. Daniel Paxton. (U.S. Air Force photo) Hi-res

As the ranking officer of the awardees, Maj. Steven Raspet had the Combat Action Medal pinned on first. Here, then-USAF Chief of Staff T. Michael Moseley pins the medal onto Maj. Raspet. (U.S. Air Force photo) Hi-res

The Orange County Register wrote:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Air Force museum honors local 'Warrior Airman'

Maj. Steve Raspet, a Fountain Valley native, is honored in exhibit opening today at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Ohio.

By Kristal Seeden
For The Orange County Register

Maj. Steve Raspet was an Air Force brat. His father moved his family around the country while serving but settled in Fountain Valley after retiring.

Raspet, a graduate of Fountain Valley High School, says he knew what he wanted to do his whole life.

"My grandpa was a pilot, my dad was a pilot; I guess I couldn't think of anything original to do," he said.

Now, his three-generation legacy is being preserved in history. Raspet and his accomplishments are highlighted in an exhibit that opened Tuesday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio titled "Warrior Airmen."

In June 2007, the 35-year-old was among the first six recipients of the Air Force Combat Action Medal, an award established to commend airmen who engage in combat, including those under direct and hostile fire. He received the award from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va.

While assisting a joint U.S. Army and Afghan convoy near Kandahar, Afghanistan on Jan. 6, 2006, Raspet, the then-flight leader of two A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, responded to a request for air presence when another convoy came under enemy attack. The airmen located the ambush threat and targeted the source of the small-arms gunfire and continued to escort the convoy for nearly an hour.

The Air Force Combat Action Medal "recognizes the changing role of the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan," Raspet said. The honor acknowledges airmen in a way that similar medals honor soldiers and Marines for their valor in combat.

Raspet decided he wanted to donate the medal after hearing that two of the other original recipients had given their medals to an enlistment hall. After a discussion with his wife, the father of four came up with the idea of offering it to the museum.

"I wanted to give it to my kids but I thought, 'What would be better than donating it to the Air Force museum?'" he recalled. "'My kids would get a kick out of it.'"

"Warrior Airmen" also features the uniform Raspet wore, complete with a mannequin of Raspet, a 30 mm shell unique to A-10 aircraft and pictures taken the day of the mission.

"Warrior Airmen" is one of the largest exhibits in the museum, officials said.

"It presents the essential role of Air Force people in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom," museum spokesman Rob Bardua said.

The exhibit includes more than 400 artifacts, three dioramas with fully dressed and equipped mannequins, a robot investigating an improvised explosive device, an audio visual presentation on a 15-foot-wide screen, and compelling first-hand accounts, Bardua said.

The exhibit opened after a special ceremony honoring its subjects on Monday. Raspet attended with his wife, children and parents, Dave and Jan Raspet, who still live in Fountain Valley.

Besides coming face to face with a life-size representation of himself, Raspet had hoped to come face to face with the man behind the voice on the other side of the radio: the airman embedded with the Army convoy who helped to coordinate the strike in 2006, Shannon Cruz, who is also featured in the exhibit.

Though both now live in Texas -- Raspet and his family are stationed at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, and Cruz has since joined the Texas Army National Guard -- they hadn't yet met.

The meeting was not to be. Cruz could not attend the exhibit because of Army training.

"We tried to meet up a couple of times," Raspet said, but it never quite worked out. "It's pretty rare that you get to meet the guys from the ground.''


Two of the associated pictures:

Maj. Steve Raspet, a Fountain Valley High School graduate, takes off in an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft on the day of a strike mission, for which he received the Air Force Combat Action Medal. (Courtesy Maj. Steve Raspet)

Maj. Steve Raspet, top left, is pictured (clockwise from center) with daughter Lucia "Razzie", 3, daughter Eliana, 9, son Isaiah, 7, son August, 7 months, and wife Lynne, in front of a T-6A Texan II. (Courtesy Maj. Steve Raspet)

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