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Bronze Star recipient reflects on experience, why family matters

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Julie Parker
  • 116 Air Control Wing Public Affairs
In an award ceremony held here recently, four Airmen from the 202nd Engineering Installation Squadron were presented Bronze Star Medals by the commander of the Georgia Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Thomas Moore.

Senior Master Sgt. George Kight was among the recipients to receive the award for his actions in a combat zone while deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from October 2013 to May 2014.

When Kight learned he would receive the medal, he said it came as a "total surprise."

"Of all things, I was not expecting to be awarded a Bronze Star Medal," he expressed.

"While I felt that I was just doing my job and accomplishing my piece of the mission to the very best of my ability, I really appreciate the fact that someone noticed and took the time to recognize me for what they believed to be going above and beyond."

The BSM is the fourth-highest individual military award and is presented to U.S. military members who distinguish themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service not involving participation in aerial flight while engaging the enemy.

Kight is one of eight recipients in the history of the 202nd EIS.

While deployed, Kight was assigned to the Task Force Signal Engineering Installations Management Team and served as the Logistics Plans and Programs superintendent.

According to Kight, he supported close to 60 personnel at more than three separate locations in Afghanistan. He was responsible for the management, oversight and technical support of deployment and redeployment activities, transportation of both inter-theater and intra-theater movement and vehicle maintenance and management functions.

He was also directly responsible for the accountability and redeployment of multi-million dollar communication installations support equipment, and his efforts had a significant impact on the success of more than $1 million in strategic communications infrastructure projects.

Kight said he had to overcome several obstacles to successfully complete this mission.
"It was a challenge unlike anything I've ever encountered before," he said.

Some of the challenges Kight described were extreme winter temperatures, concrete barracks with inadequate heating or insulation, and limited transportation. In addition, living under the constant threat of enemy fire was a reality.

"New Year's Eve we were under special uniform conditions requiring all personnel to wear full battle rattle--flak vest, Kevlar helmet, eye protection, etc.--whenever we were outside," he said.

Attack was imminent, and as the alarm signaling an incoming rocket sounded, Kight said his training kicked in and he took cover.

"That's when I heard it," said Kight.

"That much-dreaded, faint, whistling sound ... and it's getting more and more distinct ... It's a spine chilling sound. The reality of it sets in; it's a rocket, and it's headed right for our general area."

When the rocket exploded he felt the percussion from it through his entire body.

Immediately after the rocket hit, Kight stated that the years of training he'd received came rushing to the forefront of his mind, and he quickly began thinking of his next course of action.

"At first you think about the academics of it all," he explained. "I thought, 'OK, what does my training tell me I am supposed to do next? Where is everyone else around me? Is my teammate OK? Is anyone injured? Where is the nearest hardened shelter or bunker?'"

Kight and a U.S. Army soldier nearby quickly located the nearest safe-haven and devised a plan to get everyone around them to it.

That's when the alarm sounded again.

"While you are on the ground with your face in the dirt for probably no more than two minutes, it seems like an eternity," expressed Kight.

That's when his thoughts turned to his wife and children.

"After the initial academic assessment and the plan was established, the remainder of the time was spent inside my own emotions, thinking about my family, reassuring myself that they are safe and that they know that I love them," said Kight.

As soon as the second rocket hit, Kight said all he could think of was implementing the plan to keep everyone safe.

He shared how reflecting on this experience has given him a new appreciation for life and his relationships with family and friends.

"When deployed to a war zone, it is easy to become emotionally isolated and withdrawn," said Kight.

For Kight, that's when the support of a loving family becomes invaluable.

"Hearing the voices of my wife and children, getting a letter or package from home, receiving an email or chatting with them got me through," he said. "Just knowing that someone back home loves you and cares has a tremendous effect on your emotional well-being."

According to Kight, his wife, children and extended family have provided support to him throughout the course of his entire military career.

Kight enlisted in 1984 and has spent his 30-year military career assigned to the 202nd EIS. As a full-time member of the Georgia Air National Guard, Kight said his job is demanding and often calls for extended hours and time away from home.

"My wife and children have had to make their own sacrifices with respect to my duties and responsibilities, and they are as much a part of this unit as I am," expressed Kight. "You can't stick with something this demanding for this long without the support and understanding of the entire family."