Chief Master Sergeant Ramon Colon-Lopez
The first Hispanic recipient of the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
|Born||October 21, 1971|
|Place of birth||Ponce, Puerto Rico|
|Service/branch||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1990–present|
|Rank||Command Chief Master Sergeant|
Command Chief Master Sergeant of the 18th Wing|
Command Chief Master Sergeant of the 1st Special Operations Wing
Commandant of the Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer School
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Northern Watch
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Chief Master Sergeant Ramón Colón-López [note 1] (born: October 21, 1971) is a pararescueman with the U.S. Air Force. In 2007 he was the only Hispanic amongst the first six airmen to be awarded the newly created Air Force Combat Action Medal. He is currently the Command Chief of the 18th Wing Kadena AB, Japan.
Early life and family[edit | edit source]
Colón-López was born to Vilma and Ramon Colon-Torres in the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico, located in the southern coast of the island. His family moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut and in 1989, he graduated from Kolbe Cathedral High School. Colón-López wanted to pursue a degree in the field of biology and attended Sacred Heart University. However, after two semesters in December 1990, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and trained as a Transportation Specialist.
He is married to Janet K. McCaskill of Seagrove, North Carolina.
Military career[edit | edit source]
After graduating basic military training as a Transportation Specialist Lackland Air Force Base, Texas he was stationed at Iraklion Air Station in Crete. He was deployed during the Gulf War. In 1994, he volunteered for Pararescue duty training and completed his training in 1996 with 12 of his original 113 PJ candidates. After completing the PJ "pipeline" he was assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron out of Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. While a member of the 48th RQS he participated in various assignments, among which were Operation Southern Watch and Operation Northern Watch as Combat Search and Rescue Team Leader. He left the 48th RQS in January 1999 to join the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, located at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina.
24th Special Tactics Squadron[edit | edit source]
From 1999 to 2005 Colón-López was a member of the 24th Special Tactics Squadron as a Special Tactics Element Leader. While a member of the 24th STS, from July 2002 to September 2004, Colón-López was deployed four times to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan as part of a joint task force to several classified locations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. While deployed he participated in a series of joint operations, including direct assaults and combat search and rescue missions. During this time he also protected future Afghanistan president, Hamid Karzai, and received his first Bronze Star Medal with valor for his actions under fire while supporting Karzai's security detail. His second Bronze Star Medal was for his actions after his helicopter was shot down during a mission in Afghanistan. After the helicopter crash landed two Navy SEALs and Colón-López assaulted fortified enemy positions, killing five combatants and ensuring the safety of the remaining crew. He was selected to create and implement the unit's compartments Personnel Recovery Advance Force Operations team, which serviced the entire Joint Special Operations arena.
On March 11, 2004, Colón-López together with his Advance Force Operations Team and elements of the Afghan National Strike Unit, participated in an operation which required the capture of a high level target and a follow-on site exploitation with the intention of preventing the proliferation of chemical weapons. His helicopter drew hostile enemy fire yet Colón-López continued on his mission, which resulted in two enemy kills, the capture of 10 enemy troops and the destruction of multiple rocket propelled grenades and small caliber weapons. In January 2005, after Colón-López returned to the United States, he was named Superintendent of Training and later Commandant of the Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer School.
Later career[edit | edit source]
On June 13, 2007, Colón-López became the first Hispanic, and one of the first six airmen, to be awarded the newly created Air Force Combat Action Medal. It was bestowed upon him by Air Force Chief of Staff General Teed Michael Moseley at the Air Force Memorial, in Washington, DC. The medal was created to recognize Air Force members who are engaged in air or ground combat "outside the wire" in combat zones. Airmen who are under direct and hostile fire, or who personally engaged hostile forces with direct and lethal fire are eligible to receive the award. The other five airmen to receive the award were Major Steve Raspet; Master Sgt. Byron P. Allen; Master Sgt. Charlie Peterson; Staff Sgt. Daniel Paxton; and Capt. Allison K. Black.
After leaving the PJ/CRO Schoolhouse he returned to Pope Field and the 24th Special Tactics Squadron as the unit's Senior Enlisted Advisor from April 2009 to April 2011. As of 2009 a mannequin of Colón-López is featured at the U.S. Air Force Museum located in Dayton, Ohio, in the museum's "Warrior Airmen" exhibit.
After serving as the SEA for the 24th STS for two years he was then served as the inaugural Group Superintendent of the 724th Special Tactics Group at Pope Field which was activated on 30 April 2011, however he only held the position for six months before becoming the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field on November 30, 2011. In January 2013 Colón-López was reassigned to the 18th Wing at Kadena AB, Japan where he currently serves as the wing's Command Chief. His primary role as Command Chief is to advise the 18th Wing's wing commander on issues affecting the health, morale, welfare, professional development and combat readiness of all the enlisted personnel in the wing. He also serves as Kadena Air Base's senior enlisted liaison between the 18th Wing and enlisted personnel from other Department of Defense branches on Okinawa.
Assignments[edit | edit source]
- April 1991 - October 1992, Traffic Management Specialist, 7276th Air Base Group, Iraklion Air Station, Crete, Greece
- October 1992 - September 1994, Traffic Management Journeyman, 12th Transportation Squadron, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas
- September 1994 - October 1996, Pararescue student, Det 1 342nd Training Squadron, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
- October 1996 - February 1999, Pararescue Journeyman, 48th Rescue Squadron, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico
- February 1999 - January 2005, Special Tactics Element Leader, 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina
- January 2005 - November 2006, Superintendent of Training/Chief Enlisted Manager, USAF PJ/CRO School, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
- November 2006 - April 2009, Commandant, USAF PJ/CRO School, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
- April 2009 - April 2011, Senior Enlisted Adviser, 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina
- April 2011 - November 2011, Group Superintendent, 724th Special Tactics Group, Pope Field, North Carolina
- November 2011 - January 2013, Command Chief, 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Florida
- January 2013 – Present, Command Chief, 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan
Awards, decorations and honors[edit | edit source]
Among Colón-López' military decorations and badges are the following:
|Basic US Air Force Enlisted Aircrew Badge|
|Master Parachutist Badge|
|Jumpmaster Military Freefall Parachutist Badge|
|US Air Force Scuba Badge|
- 1994 Senior Airman Below-the-Zone
- 1997 Leadership Award, Airman Leadership School
- 1998 Air Combat Command (ACC) Pararescue Noncommissioned Officer of the Year
- 2003 Commandant's Award and Distinguished Graduate, Gunter NCO Academy
- 2004 Air Force Pararescue Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year
- 2005 Air Force Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award recipient, Senior Noncommissioned Officer
- 2005 Team Kirtland Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year
- 2006 Jaycee's Ten Outstanding Young Americans USAF nominee to U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- 2013 Gathering of Eagles Inductee, USAF Air Command and Staff College
See also[edit | edit source]
Notes[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- "Gathering of Eagles Foundation :: Colón-López, Ramón". Goefoundation.com. http://www.goefoundation.com/index.php/eagles/biographies/c/col-n-l-pez-ram-n/. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- "1st SOW welcomes new command chief". 12/2/2011. http://www.hurlburt.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123282027. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- "Factsheets : Unknown Fact Sheet". Nationalmuseum.af.mil. http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=15998. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- "Biographies : Chief Master Sergeant Ramon Colon-Lopez". Kadena.af.mil. http://www.kadena.af.mil/library/biographies/bio.asp?id=16383. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- "HUNTING THE TERRORISTS DOWN: SMSGT. RAMON COLON-LOPEZ". 4/21/2009. http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=13586. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- "News Article: Air Force Awards First Combat Action Medals". Defense.gov. http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=46386. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- "News Archive - USAF PARARESCUE - That Others May Live". Pararescue.com. 2006-10-07. http://www.pararescue.com/newsitem.aspx?id=525. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- Staff Sgt. Monique Randolph. "Airmen receive first AF Combat Action Medals". Af.mil. Archived from the original on 21 February 2013. http://archive.is/YLhJH. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
- Lisa Burgess. "Officials honor first recipients of Air Force Combat Action Medal - News". Stripes. http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=46650. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- Air Force releases combat action medal criteria, Air Force Print News, 4/9/2007
- http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/01/ap_air_force_museum_011209/ news/2009/01/ap_air_force_museum_011209
- Sarah Swan. "Pararescueman to make special appearance at National Museum of the U.S. Air Force". Nationalmuseum.af.mil. http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123194881. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- Michelle Vickers (January 19, 2012). "1st SOW Command Chief to Airmen: "Carnivores aren't content"". .hurlburt.af.mil. http://www2.hurlburt.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123286727. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- "Biography:Chief Master Sergeant Ramon Colon-Lopez". Jan 2013. http://www.kadena.af.mil/library/biographies/bio.asp?id=16383. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
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