Airmen honored for heroics
By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD -- Tech. Sgt. Gregory Pauli, 27, isn't a hero -- at least he doesn't think he is -- so don't try to tell him any different.
His actions on June 1, 2007, while undergoing small arms fire in Afghanistan, led to the survival of several team members has earned him the Bronze Star with Valor. Maj. Gen. Michael Akey, commander of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, presented Pauli with the commendation during a ceremony at Barnes Air National Guard Base on April 5.
"In my career field, EOD [Explosive Ordinance Disposal], there are a lot of people who do very heroic things. I'm just lucky enough to get recognized for it," Pauli told Reminder Publications. "This wasn't the first time that I have been involved in an incident like this. Unfortunately, normally when EOD rolls off base something has gone wrong or is about to. This is what we train for and this is what we do."
Pauli was serving as an EOD Team Leader at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan when the incident occurred. His team was responding to an improvised explosive device, when another exploded, killing or injuring several members of the team. Pauli then established command, began combat lifesaving actions and planned and led the Casualty Evacuation, which was critical to the survival of those injured.
"The actions of Sgt. Pauli demonstrate the selflessness and warrior spirit of all our Airmen," Col. Robert Brooks, commander of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base, said. "His actions are indicative of our core values, and we are proud to recognize his efforts."
Pauli did not sustain any injuries during that June day and has since performed his duties, including a tour in Iraq, physically unscathed.
"I've always been lucky like that," he said of avoiding injuries while in the field.
Pauli will soon be entering his eighth year of service, now as a "welcomed addition to the Barnes family," according to Capt. Matthew Mutti, wing executive staff officer for the 104th Fighter Wing.
Master Sgt. Ernest Smith, 34, was also honored last Sunday, receiving a Gold Badge for his efforts as the top production recruiter in the nation with 53 accessions.
"Being awarded the Gold Badge is an unexpected honor," he said. "I am flattered, to say the least, that I was selected ahead of so many other deserving people.
"I cannot take full credit for this achievement," he continued. "My fellow recruiters, members of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, our leadership and thoughtful people in the local community can take a great deal of that credit. Without their help I would not have been able to achieve 53 enlistments, and I wouldn t have had the opportunity to become involved in so many great things. I am thankful for the incredible amount of help I have had."
Smith, who will enter his 15th year of service in June, said he will strive to maintain this high level of excellence in 2009 by continuing to place "the needs of the people I work with first, being forthright and open, and finding the right fit for each person."