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News | March 6, 2024

Chief Master Sergeant David Olejarz honored with Bronze Star Medal for exceptional service in Iraq

By Master Sgt. Kellen Kroening 128th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

MILWAUKEE — Chief Master Sergeant David M. Olejarz was presented the Bronze Star Medal Feb. 4, 2024, for his exemplary leadership and meritorious service during his deployment in Iraq.

The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for heroic or meritorious achievement or service in a combat zone. Established in 1944, the Bronze Star Medal has been awarded in every conflict since World War II.

For six months in 2022, Chief Olejarz served as the Senior Enlisted Leader for the 443d Air Expeditionary Squadron, 387th Air Expeditionary Group, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. While there, Olejarz led 150 Total Force Airmen and 45 contractors across three geographically separated locations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, countering the threat posed by the opposing armed force in Iraq.

As the highest-ranking Air Force enlisted member in Iraq, Chief Olejarz provided invaluable advice to multiple commanders and Ninth Air Force staff action officers on strategic manpower decisions crucial for the mission's success. His efforts ensured key positions were adequately manned, enabling the unit to effectively execute tasks assigned by United States Central Command.

“The demonstrated excellence in a critical leadership role by Chief Olejarz is awe-inspiring,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bill Smith, 128th Air Refueling Wing Command Chief. “He is an exceptional leader whose confidence, courage, and compassion led to the Bronze Star Medal. He leads with humility and is a true inspiration.”

During a particularly dangerous situation involving an attack on the base, Olejarz demonstrated exceptional leadership coordinating the emergency landing of two helicopters dangerously low on fuel. His swift actions, which involved coordination between multiple agencies and synchronizing emergency service response actions, ensured a safe landing for the aircraft and their eight crew members.

Despite facing three indirect fire strikes, a complex attack utilizing multiple weapons systems, and continuous threats from enemy unmanned aerial systems, Chief Olejarz's leadership remained resolute.

“It was inspiring to see the 443rd Air Expeditionary Squadron come together and handle a dangerous situation flawlessly,” said Olejarz. “The training kicked in, and these brave airmen did an amazing job when it mattered most.”

Upon returning from the deployment, Chief Olejarz returned to his role as the Senior Enlisted Leader for the 128th Civil Engineering Squadron.

“It’s humbling to hear the impact Chief Olejarz had in his duties abroad,” said Lt. Col. Matthew J. Lee, 128th Civil Engineering Squadron Commander. “It’s a testament to the character, talent, and expertise Chief brings to our squadron every day. He has always set the standard; this achievement shows that leaders and airmen outside of the 128th Air Refueling Wing recognize what Chief Olejarz and our Air National Guard Airmen bring to the fight! I am very proud to serve alongside Chief Olejarz.”

Chief Olejarz will retire from the 128th Air Refueling Wing on March 17, 2024.