JINSA’s 2015 Grateful Nation Award

Major Lee Spencer Wallace, USA

Major Lee Spencer Wallace, USA

Major Lee Spencer Wallace distinguished himself with valorous service as a proven combat leader in the Global War on Terrorism. As a member of the historic 3rd Infantry Division, Major Wallace and his platoon were one of the first combat elements to enter Baghdad in April of 2003. During combat operations, then First Lieutenant Wallace’s vehicle was engaged with an RPG wounding him during the attack. Although wounded, then First Lieutenant Wallace regained control of his crew and moved his vehicle in front of his platoon to aggressively maneuver and destroy the RPG team. For his actions he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Major Wallace then volunteered for, and was selected into, the 75th Ranger Regiment. There, he was again recognized for his combat leadership with successful tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of a Joint Strike Force conducting Joint Special Operations raids and missions. He was hand-selected as Rifle Company Commander of a 141-man Air Assault Rifle Company that conducted counter insurgency operations over 4 Afghan districts. Major Wallace’s most recent combat contributions include distinguished service on his sixth combat deployment conducting Joint Special Operations raids as a Ranger Company Commander for the 1st Ranger Battalion while deployed to Afghanistan.

Major Wallace is one of the bright young leaders in the United States Army. He inspires the soldiers under him to excel at the toughest of missions. As a combat tested leader in the Global War on Terrorism, Major Wallace is most deserving of this prestigious award.

Sergeant Amanda J. Eason, USMC

Sergeant Amanda J. Eason distinguished herself both on and off the battlefield. She enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2008 and was deployed to Afghanistan from January 2010 to August 2010 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where she participated in over 30 convoy missions as a Motor Vehicle Operator.

On April 20, 2010, then- Lance Corporal Eason went on a route recon mission to find a secure route to Musa Qual’eh for resupply. The Marines came across a vacant compound where a vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. As assistant convoy commander, she was called up to assist the downed vehicle when her vehicle struck two improvised explosive devices. She was wounded in action and later received the Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon. During this deployment, then-Corporal Eason was also attached to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine division as part of a Female Engagement Team, which allows U.S. forces to communicate with women in Afghanistan without breaking cultural norms. She completed over 25 patrols with the mission of gaining information from the local female population regarding Taliban forces in the area.

Sergeant Eason also distinguished herself as a Career Planner, ensuring that all Marines in her commands were briefed on career options, incentives, and benefits to make informed decisions about submitting for reenlistment. For her outstanding service to the Marine Corp,, she was awarded the Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medal. Her exceptional professional ability and devotion to duty in combat and in garrison warrant the recognition associated with the Grateful Nation Award.

Petty Officer First Class John Palomares, USN

Petty Officer First Class John Palomares distinguished himself as an exceptional sailor who has served in the United States Navy for the past 14 years. He recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, where he served as the lead medical corpsman and medical trainer for Afghani forces. As lead corpsman while forward-deployed, he led a staff of eight junior corpsman and ten Afghani medical personnel in the day-to-day operations of his remote clinic. Petty Officer Palomares amassed fifty “outside the wire” patrols while in theatre, and his expert leadership was essential in the crucial treatment of battle wounds for U.S. and Host Nation forces and the surrounding civilian population.

While deployed to Helmand Province in 2013, Petty Officer Palomares was responsible for the command and control of a major mass casualty event when two Afghani busses collided and approximately fifty civilians were brought in for medical assistance with multiple major trauma cases. Due to his steadfast leadership and superlative knowledge, he was able to control the situation and prevent any loss of life.

Petty Officer Palomares is currently serving at the Naval Research Laboratory as the Independent Duty Corpsman and Leading Petty Officer directing all operations of the Branch Medical Clinic that supports 2,500 active-duty and Navy civilian employees. Petty Officer Palomares has excelled at sea, overseas, and in boot-on-the-ground environments. His dedication to duty makes him most deserving of JINSA’s Grateful Nation Award.

Chief Machinery Technician William Haynes, USCG

Chief Machinery Technician William Haynes displayed exceptional service while deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Operation Resolute Support from June 2014 to May 2015. Serving as a Redeployment Assistance and Inspection Detachment Team Supervisor for Bagram Airfield and Arifjan, Kuwait, Chief Haynes led a rotating crew of the Coast Guard’s most forward-deployed members.

Chief Haynes was personally responsible for the inspection of over 2,200 containers and training of 110 Department of Defense personnel, ensuring that all hazardous material leaving the theatre was in compliance with international, U.S., and Department of Defense regulations. He displayed superior service in creating a container repair yard in Bagram that was pivotal in the onward movement of high priority Department of Defense cargo, while also saving an estimated $5 million in container acquisition costs.

Chief Haynes’ leadership and devotion to duty were indispensible in one of the largest redeployment and retrograde operations in U.S. military history. Through his actions, he has exemplified the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty.

Technical Sergeant James P. Fitzgerald, USAF

Technical Sergeant James P. Fitzgerald distinguished himself as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team Leader, 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, 96th Civil Engineer Group. Sergeant Fitzgerald showcased his leadership during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom throughout several deployments for a total of over 900 days. He directed a 3-person team through 439 combat missions with 226 route clearance patrols, neutralizing 210 improvised explosive devices, the number one killer of Coalition Forces. During one patrol, he engaged Taliban fighters and directed suppressing fire during an hour-long attack that repelled the enemy and allowed movement of his unit.

During his deployment, Sergeant Fitzgerald cleared over 100,000 square miles of IED-laden routes and cleared 77 ordnance caches that denied the enemy use of over 3,000 munitions and 19,000 pounds of explosives. He performed 122 post blast analyses, resulting in the prosecution of 26 individuals and trained both U.S. and Afghan soldiers on IED techniques. Sergeant Fitzgerald utilized his combat lifesaving skills for a wounded soldier during a vehicle rollover, stabilizing her until medical personnel arrived. He has led and worked with the U.S. Secret Service twice to protect high-level dignitaries, including the President of the United States and First Family.

Technical Sergeant Fitzgerald is the recipient of the Air Force Achievement Medal. The distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Fitzgerald reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Captain Eric Barger, USA – Representing U.S. Special Operations Command

Captain Eric Barger distinguished himself while conducting counter-terrorism operations in support of Operation Juniper Shield from October 2014 to March 2015 in the AFRICOMM area of responsibility. While assigned as the Commander of Special Forces Operational Detachment – Alpha 0333 and Joint Planning and Assistance Team in Diffa, Niger, Captain Barger supervised the combat-focused training of 145 soldiers from the 3rd Compagnie Anti-Terroriste of the Nigerien Armed Forces.

Captain Barger led 11 successful combined advise-and-assist patrols with the Nigerien anti-terrorist element, and also advised on numerous other operations that resulted in the detention of 25 Boko Haram members and the elimination of two suicide bombers. In February 2015, Boko Haram conducted its first real-world cross-border attack into Niger. Due to Captain Berger’s planning and advising, the Nigerien Armed Forces were able to prevent the Diffa bridge – critical terrain connecting Niger and Nigeria – from falling into the hands of Boko Haram. His actions directly contributed to defeating this large-scale Boko Haram attack and likely saved the lives of hundreds of Nigerien soldiers and civilians.

Both the U.S. Ambassador to Niger and senior Nigerien military officials commended Captain Barger’s performance as a commander during major overseas contingency operations. He ensured timely and accurate information on the developing situation in the southeast portion of Niger during a crucial period of Boko Haram aggression. His leadership and determination greatly improved the coordination, cohesion, and performance of several different militaries to include Nigerien, French, and Canadian units.