Col. TJ Hamrick's excellent adventure

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Looking back at past accomplishments can almost seem like stepping into a phone booth time machine giving you a nostalgic feeling.

Twelve years ago, Justin Timberlake's debut album was all over the radio, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had recently won the Super Bowl against the Oakland Raiders and President George W. Bush just announced U.S. and coalition forces had begun military action against Iraq.

Col. Terry J. "TJ" Hamrick Jr., 17th Training Wing Vice Commander, felt nostalgic when reminiscing on the anniversary of being one of the first Air Force intelligence specialists to deploy with an Army unit inside Iraq on March 18, 2003.

"By the time this unfolded in 2003, I had already been involved in a couple other shooting wars," said Hamrick.  "But in all those wars I was at an Air Force base working long hard hours as an intel guy, planning missions and preparing air crews to fly and drop bombs. I had not been outside the wire, like I was in this case."

For Hamrick, this was his second time deploying to Iraq, but it was his first time going out with the Army.

"This was back before we had all the combat skills training that we have now, before the Air Force in mass was going outside the wire like we do currently," the Col. explained. "There were battlefield Airmen that were going out with the Army at the time, but that was a pretty small subset."

Hamrick's adventure began in the now closed Camp Virginia, Kuwait, with the Army V Corps Command Post.

"It was kind of a temporary Army camp, it was all tents, there weren't any hard billets at the time," said Hamrick. "If you talk to a Soldier, they would have considered us 'in the rear with the gear', but for an Airman it was the wild wild west."

Hamrick and his unit traveled by helicopter attached to the V Corps Tactical Command Post making their way from camp to camp into Iraq, eventually ending up at Baghdad International Airport. His job was to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information to the command and control function that directed close air support missions.

"My unit was in charge of the Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs) that was assigned out to V Corps units, so we had air liaison officers and TACP battlefield Airmen, from the corps down to the battalion level who advised their Army counterparts on airpower and controlled the airstrikes."

He was also responsible for controlling 3,946 coalition aircraft, helping them locate, identify and destroy targets. Aiding in the destruction of 373 artillery pieces, 310 tanks and 887 military vehicles earned him the Bronze Star Medal.

After earning the medal on June 18, 2003, Hamrick expressed during an interview that for the Army to approve a medal for an Airman at this level who was a part of their close air support shows their great appreciation for what the Air Force did.

Col. Hamrick commented that he was very honored to be nominated and to receive the medal. The deployment was a big learning experience, and enabled him to appreciate the work of the ground components and Air Force's battlefield Airmen.

"I would say that I received a vast appreciation for what the Army does, whether it's their living conditions they have when they are out in the field or their command and control processes for managing the vast resources deployed on the ground battlefield in a major theater war," said Hamrick.

At the time he was a captain deployed out of the 315th Training Squadron in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, 12 years later, Col. Hamrick is back where he began as the Vice Commander of the 17th Training Wing, and helps ensure future intelligence specialists are prepared for current and upcoming operations worldwide.