Story by A1C Brandon Esau on 07/11/2019Major Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, was presented the Bronze Star at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019, for his meritorious achievement while at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Since Dec. 6, 1941, men and women who served in any capacity in or with the U.S. military, have been awarded the Bronze Star by distinguishing themselves through heroic or meritorious achievements or service in a combat zone.
From March 3, 2018, to March 2, 2019, Darty served as the operations officer and maintenance advisor for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. During this time, he operated outside of a coalition-controlled airfield, where he endured 29 indirect fire rocket attacks and was exposed to a persistent threat of insider attacks.
Even with all of these challenges, Darty was able to help execute more than 10,000 sorties during his year in Afghanistan, and he also helped set up a UH-60 Black Hawk maintenance training program, which allowed for the host nation members to become more familiar with this technology.
"This was an outstanding opportunity for me and I learned so much about my job as well as myself," Darty said. "I was able to work alongside great U.S. military members as well as extraordinary Afghan national army counterparts who all shared the same common goal."
Before arriving to RAF Mildenhall, Darty finished the 365-day deployment which brought its share of obstacles.
"Communication was the toughest obstacle we faced," Darty said. "We received training in Dari, which is one of the primary languages in Afghanistan, and we worked alongside some of the bravest interpreters and people I've ever met in some of the most hostile conditions, and patience was my guide."
Learning patience and understanding of other cultures was a major factor in Darty and members of his team being awarded the Bronze Star.
"Some things I was the lead for, and some I did on my own, but this award is really for the 40-plus other people in the squadron who did the heavy lifting," Darty said. "Our team consisted of Romanian, Swedish and U.S. service members from different branches it was a truly joint, coalition organization."
Master Sgt. William Smith, 733rd Air Mobility Squadron production superintendent at Kadena Air Base, Japan, worked alongside Darty in Afghanistan, and attests to his ability to lead a team with a common goal.
"It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to work with a person of his caliber in a hostile and foreign environment," Smith remarked. "Maj. Darty has an uncanny ability to bring everybody around him up, even in unknown situations. He was always calm in numerous high-stress situations where our number one priority was keeping our people safe and out of harms way.
Coming together as a team to execute the mission is, according to Darty, part of his vision for the Airmen he works with here.
"My advice to them is always rely on the people next to you," Darty expressed. "This was something I learned while deployed which I never learned anywhere else. We were our own security and even though we may not be getting shot at every day here, you have to always trust the person by your side."