News>Grissom chief takes on dangerous deployment, wins AF award
GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. -- Chief Master Sgt. Michael L. Bowden Jr., 434th Civil Engineer Squadron manager, was named the 2011 Society of American Military Engineers Goddard Medal recipient at both the Air Force Reserve and Air Force levels. The chief garnered that recognition amongst others for his recent deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Maj. Gen. Timothy Byers, the Air Force Civil Engineer, presents Chief Master Sgt. Michael L. Bowden Jr. with the 2011 Society of American Military Engineers Goddard Medal at the 50th Annual Civil Engineer Awards at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., Feb. 23. Bowden, who is the 434th Civil Engineer Squadron manager, garnered that recognition amongst others for his recent deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)
GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. -- Chief Master Sgt. Michael L. Bowden Jr., and other civil engineers look for an approaching helicopter during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. Bowden, who is the 434th Civil Engineer Squadron manager, was named the 2011 Society of American Military Engineers Goddard Medal recipient at both the Air Force Reserve and Air Force levels. (U.S. Air Force photo)
8/27/2012 - GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. -- There are moments in life where nothing will ever be viewed the same again and for one chief here, a 2011 deployment brought with it a reality check and Air Force-level recognition.
"May 19, nobody will ever forget that day," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael L. Bowden Jr., 434th Civil Engineer Squadron manager, who was the 2011 Society of American Military Engineers Goddard Medal recipient at both the Air Force Reserve and Air Force levels.
On that fateful day in Afghanistan, Bowden and the other 434th CES deployers awoke to find themselves facing a direct assault on their camp.
"Enemy forces penetrated the camp, and our guys took up a defensive posture," recalled the father of four. "Luckily Air Force security forces and Army special forces pushed them back.
"Luckily we didn't have to engage them, but it was 50 feet - that's all further they were from us," the chief continued. "Helicopters were above unloading their guns. It was super intense and reinforced the reason why we were there."
Such were the dangers faced by the 26-year veteran, who led a team of 62 Grissom civil engineer members augmenting regular Air Force and Air National Guard engineers for a nine-month, first-ever presidential mobilization of the 434th CES. Among other things, the team was charged with constructing or expanding combat outposts and forward operating bases in Afghanistan.
"Bowden provided CES Airmen with outstanding leadership, technical expertise and courage in the completion of mission-critical, life-saving construction projects at multiple forward operating bases throughout Afghanistan in support of U.S. and NATO coalition partners," said Maj. Paul Brenner, 434th CES commander.
"It was a little bizarre; we went from being reservists one day to pulling gunner duty with the Polish Army the next with Al-Qaeda and Taliban all around us," said Bowden. "It was an intense reality check.
"I'm really proud of all that we were able to accomplish though," he added. "It says a lot about Grissom."
The chief's personal accomplishments included assessing the life, health and safety at 25 combat outposts and FOBs and being hand selected to lead a team of engineers in the design and construction of four new combat outposts that supported 3,400 coalition forces and included 68 projects worth approximately $21 million.
Bowden and his team were also responsible for providing electricity to 780 buildings, supporting more than 1,500 people at Bagram and plumbing 324 billets, which were part of military troop construction projects that made life bearable for the war fighters.
Increased operational capabilities were needed in support of the presidentially-ordered 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan as well, explained the chief.
"While we were part of route clearing teams embedded with the U.S. Army and Polish Army, we surveyed the southern, northern and eastern borders for possible expansion bases to bring in more war fighters," he said. "It's hard to bring in more war fighters if they don't have a place to sleep, to eat, to shower and to do business."
Bowden said he was particularly proud of the success his team had following a survey and site planning for an expansion at a forward operating base.
In less than a week, the team had erected two Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources 550 force bed-down kits, which have everything necessary to support a deployed force in the most austere environments. More than 1,200 International Security Assistance Forces immediately called the operational outpost home.
"To get it done that quickly was impressive; that's working 12-16-hour days and getting after it," recalled Bowden. "We only had makeshift (security) fencing for protection, so there was a lot of stress to get it done quickly. There was a lot of stress in general."
Bowden's award nomination lists one accomplishment after another, both while deployed and here at Grissom, but he said there are moments from 2011 that will forever impact him that have nothing to do with civil engineer work and everything to do with being an Airman and a leader.
"Goal 1A for me was to get everyone back safely and goal 1B was to complete the mission," he concluded. "We did that."
The Goddard Medal is given for outstanding contributions to military engineering, including military troop construction, base maintenance and contingency engineering.
The award is named after retired Maj. Gen. Guy Harold Goddard, who was the head of the Air Force Family Housing Division from 1957-1961 and directed the construction of 50,000 housing units for military members after having served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II.
Bowden received his award during the 50th Annual Civil Engineer Awards dinner at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, DC, Feb. 23 and his actual medal from the Society of American Military Engineers during their Joint Engineer Training Conference & Expo in St. Louis in May.