130th Airlift Wing Guardsman Honored with Bronze Star Medal

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Eugene Crist
  • 130th Airlift Wing

MCLAUGHLIN AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, W.Va. – Master Sgt. Andrew Mencin, of the 130th Airlift Wing’s Civil Engineering Squadron, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service while deployed to Iraq during a ceremony held Saturday, June 8th, 2024 at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base.

Mencin was the Fire Chief for Bravo, 443rd Air Expeditionary Group, 387th Air Expeditionary Group at Bashur Airfield, Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

The mission of Operation Inherent Resolve was to advise, assist, and enable partner forces in a campaign to defeat ISIS in the designated areas of Iraq and Syria in order to position long-term security cooperation frameworks.

During his six-month deployment, Mencin and his thirteen-man team were exposed to imminent danger from four indirect rocket strikes, two complex theater ballistic missile attacks, and two assaults by hostile unmanned aerial systems. Mencin said of his experience, “We worked at a Forward Operating Base (FOB) without Fire Protection, so we were very busy with fires in and around the camp. We had two helicopter fires, and there were also controlled burns that we had to execute in order to help protect the camp from potential enemy attempts to burn us out.”

Despite these threats, Mencin would lead his team to extinguish forty-one structural and wildlife fires, preserving numerous Army Special Operations Aviation Detachment assets.

“What enabled me to carry out the mission was mostly a concern for the wellbeing of my firefighters,” said Mencin. “They were always at the front of my mind.” He added, “Training kicks in, and you don’t think about it. You just react, and don’t have a chance to worry until it's all said and done.”

Serving well outside his functional responsibilities, Mencin also assisted the aircrew of a C-17 Globemaster III when it suddenly became non-operational on an active landing zone, and fixed wing operations had come to a standstill. “I was notified about a C-17 that had broken down and was completely blocking the runway. I had contacted our flight commander that was at a base in Erbil and notified him so that he could start the process of locating that part,” explained Mencin.

Through his initiative and established relationships, Mencin would coordinate with external organizations to expedite delivery of a critical 73-thousand dollar maintenance part, repairing the aircraft and restoring the runway to fully mission capable status in less than twenty-four hours.

Mencin was quick to acknowledge the efficient and integrated effort of his peer Airmen and Soldiers involved stating, “I was then able to work with the Army to ensure the part was put on a [helicopter] and brought to our FOB so the C-17 could be repaired. I would give a lot of credit to the crew that repaired [the aircraft]. Yes, we got the part to them quickly, but without their efforts the plane stays grounded longer than 24 hours.”

Brig. Gen. David Cochran, the ceremony’s presiding official and Commander of the West Virginia Air National Guard, spoke to the noted personal sacrifice that coincides with deployment, stating, “All of our Airmen possess unique warrior skills necessary in the support and defense of our nation. Oftentimes, they are required to serve in distant corners of the world under austere conditions, being separated from their family and friends.” He added, “During the initial phase of Master Sgt. Mencin’s heroic deployment to Iraq his daughter was born. His selfless service is only possible because of the intense support of those loved ones he had to leave behind.”

Brig. Gen. Cochran further articulated the significance of the Bronze Star and its most recent recipient, stating, “Master Sgt. Mencin’s actions while deployed to Iraq demonstrated a superior ability to thrive during combat conditions. He now joins a special group of Airmen recognized as Bronze Star recipients and serves as a premier example for others to aspire. We are all very proud to serve with him.”

The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone. The West Virginia Air National Guard is the Air component of the West Virginia National Guard. The organization boasts over 2,150 members and consists of two flying units: the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, West Virginia.