Major Awarded Bronze Star for Helping Rebuild Iraqi Air Force
By Michael P. Kleiman, 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 16, 2009
LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Maj. Dan Belden, Space Development and Test Wing's deputy for Mission Design Division, Space and Missile Systems Center, received the Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony, Jan. 13. The ceremony was officiated by Gen. C. Robert "Bob" Kehler, Air Force Space Command commander.
The genesis behind the SDTW officer earning the distinguished honor began 18 months ago when he joined the Coalition Air Force Training Team in Baghdad, Iraq, to assist in reconstructing that nation's Air Force from the ground up. What appeared to be mission impossible at the start of his tour of duty in July 2007 became mission possible upon his departure one year later, as Major Belden directly contributed to the growth of the Iraqi Air Force from 28 to 71 aircraft and to the inaugural procurement of night vision devices for its aircrews.
Serving with the CAFTT Program Management staff during the initial eight months of his deployment, Major Belden worked with the IqAF, the Iraq Ministry of Defense and appropriate Department of Defense organizations to procure airframes, parts, maintenance, and training to rebuild the southwest Asian country's Air Force. In the final four months of his assignment, he held a similar position with the Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq Security Assistance Office, a joint organization responsible for foreign military sales.
"My time in Iraq was the experience of a lifetime. It helped me fully appreciate the opportunities I have as an American and as an U.S. Air Force officer," said Major Belden, "It gave me a unique perspective on priorities in life and the value of family and friends."
Highlights of his deployed service include relationships established with members of the IqAF and Iraqi Ministry of Defense staff, lifelong friendships fostered with coworkers also engaged in reinvigorating the country's Air Force, a direct e-mail message from then Multi-National Force - Iraq commander Gen. David H. Petraeus, congratulating him on his efforts to complete the Government of Iraq's purchase of 22 Mi-17 helicopters, as well as the flight home to include the remarkable homecoming provided by the United Service Organizations at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and his final arrival home in Los Angeles.
"I am honored and humbled to be recognized with such a distinct award for serving with the outstanding men and women of CAFTT, the SAO, and our sister services and coalition partners in MNSTCI." said Major Belden. "I would go back and serve in Iraq. I believe in the mission there and what it means to the future of our country and theirs."
First awarded in 1944, the Bronze Star Medal is a U.S. military decoration bestowed for individual heroism or meritorious achievement or service.