When he arrived in Afghanistan as an ammunitions advisor, he didn’t know what to expect. What he saw drove him to begin increasing the Afghan air force’s weapons capabilities and aerial escort capabilities, having a direct impact on their counterinsurgency operations.
The actions of Master Sgt. Nathan La Rue, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron munitions conventional maintenance NCO in charge, earned him a Bronze Star Medal which he received June 18 at Luke Air Force Base.
“When I got there they were limited to shooting M-240 machine guns out the side of Mi-17 cargo helicopters,” La Rue said. “This was surprising to me because Mi-17s aren’t designed for battle and the area from where they could shoot was limited to the side of the helicopter.”
La Rue knew his first priority was to fix and order ammunition for all the guns and rocket launchers including the Yak-B, a four-barrel Gatling gun.
“A great amount of their armament was either broken, missing ammunition or they just didn’t have the tools available to calibrate the helicopters and such,” La Rue said. “The logistics system over there was one of the biggest issues causing things to not be fixed or ordered in a timely manner.”
The task was daunting, but La Rue and his crew went through freight containers to sort and find items they needed, as well as ensured everything else such as tools and ammunition were ordered.
“All our efforts paid off, and we were successful in getting all those weapons systems functional,” La Rue said. “This included the armament and calibration of two MI-17s with S-5 rocket pods and GSH-23 gun pods, followed quickly by training, getting crews and pilots certified, and planning and conducting missions.”
La Rue’s actions in Afghanistan helped the war effort by overcoming a five-year logistics barrier and by enabling the first-ever Afghan training and use of the GSH-23 gun pods. These actions had a direct impact on the Afghan air force’s offense, counterinsurgency and aerial escort capabilities.
The time spent in Afghanistan gave La Rue a new perspective of the U.S. Air Force.
“When they say we are the world’s greatest air force, it’s not just a saying,” La Rue said. “Coming from Afghanistan, I see that we are top-notch not only logistically but in many areas, from the quality medical care we receive to those who perform aircraft maintenance and work in the administration side.”
Harvey Pospisil, 56th EMS conventional maintenance crewmember and La Rue’s longtime co-worker and friend, was pleased to see his past subordinate and now boss succeed in his undertakings.
“He’s an outstanding senior NCO — honest, loyal, definitely has integrity, and cares about his troops,” Pospisil said. “I think it’s awesome he’s received the Bronze Star, and it was actually my first time being present at a Bronze Star ceremony. I’m just really proud of him.”
Being recognized for his actions was the greatest reward for La Rue.
“I was honored that my supervision thought enough of what we were able to accomplish there to put me in for the Bronze Star, and that alone was good enough for me,” La Rue said. “I didn’t actually expect it to go through, but I’m grateful to receive it. It was really cool to go over there and be given the opportunity to pave my own path and take my own direction.”