Maj. Joshua Brown, 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron pilot, flies a KC-135 over Afghanistan during a refueling mission that earned him his 18th oak leaf cluster for the Air Medal, July 30, 2011. Maj. Brown is deployed from the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Hank Hoegen)
A KC-135 Stratotanker deployed to the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, refuels an F-16 deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, July 30, 2011. This refuel was part of a mission that earned Maj. Joshua Brown, 22nd EARS pilot deployed from the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron at Fairchild AFB, his 18th oak leaf cluster for the Air Medal. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Hank Hoegen)
A KC-135 Stratotanker deployed to the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, refuels an F-15E deployed from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, July 30, 2011. This refuel was part of a mission that earned Maj. Joshua Brown, 22nd EARS pilot deployed from the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron at Fairchild AFB, his 18th oak leaf cluster for the Air Medal. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Hank Hoegen)
by Master Sgt. Cindy Dorfner
376th Air Expeditionary Wing
8/1/2011 - TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan -- Maj. Josh Brown thinks records are made to be broken. A KC-135 pilot deployed here, Brown flew his final combat sortie for this deployment July 30, qualifying him to receive the 18th oak leaf cluster for his Air Medal.
Currently, the next highest awardees in the KC-135 Stratotanker each have 15 clusters.
The Air Medal is awarded for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight in support of operations, according to the Air Force Personnel Center website, www.afpc.af.mil.
The requirements for receiving the Air Medal have changed over the years. The first few Brown received in 2001-2002 were earned with only 10 combat sorties versus the 20 required now. The major, who is deployed from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., has also previously supported combat operations in Iraq as an MC-12 Liberty pilot with 120 combat sorties, as well as 14 in the C-21 supporting operations in Kosovo.
A 13-year Air Force veteran, Brown has deployed 13 times anywhere from three weeks to 10 months at a time.
His first deployment was to Saudi Arabia, when he flew eight combat support missions for Operation Southern Watch. Since that first trip, Brown's love for doing what he does has grown.
"I love flying, but it isn't just flying for flying's sake," he said. "I love flying military aircraft. I love the mission. I enjoy flying combat missions, the thrill and excitement. It's never the same. In my heart, I know that some of my sorties have made a real difference. The fuel I offloaded kept that one fighter in the air longer ... to drop that bomb or fly a strafing run to keep our guys on the ground safe. That is what this job means to me. That's why I keep coming back."
Brown, a 1998 Air Force Academy graduate and native of St. Cloud, Minn., said his latest accomplishment can be described two ways.
"On one hand, this isn't that significant ... it's just one more sortie on just another day in a very long war," he said. "On the other hand, this is very significant because it really shows how critical the tanker force is to today's operations. We are out there every day offloading millions of pounds of fuel to Air Force, Navy, Marine and coalition fighter, bomber and support aircraft. We push it so that we in the air can support and protect our brothers- and sisters-in-arms on the ground. I also see it as significant to the Transit Center because we are creating history of our own and this is just one small piece."
Brown's incredible efforts flying in support of recent contingency operations culminate this deployment while "fueling the fight" over Afghanistan in support of surge operations for Operation Enduring Freedom, said Col. Brian Newberry, the 376th Expeditionary Operations Group commander.
"His blistering pace of flying enabled more than 100 strikes -- also top his unit, the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron -- as well as critical shows of force and troops in contact support by coalition fighters," Newberry said.
Brown said it's hard to nail down the best part of his job to just one thing.
"I have two best parts of my job," he said. "The first is working with the younger guys ... the next generation of tanker pilots and (boom operators). I want to teach them right. I feel it's my duty to impart my knowledge and educate them on the art of air refueling in the combat arena. Sometimes, I wish I was a better teacher/instructor pilot so that I could pass everything I know.
"The second is supporting the guys in the air and on the ground. As I said earlier, I truly think we're a part of getting the mission done in the air and on the ground, and ultimately getting (servicemembers) home to their families and loved ones."
While he acknowledged the importance of the accomplishment, Brown was quick to share the accolades with fellow Airmen and his family. He cited his parents' encouragement as instrumental to his career.
"I feel honored and humbled," he said. "I've had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest people in the Air Force, including the pilots, boom operators, maintainers, aircrew flight equipment technicians, intelligence and weather troops -- the people who support our aircraft operations and without whom I could not do my job."