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Airman earns prestigious honor for time in Iraq

Posted 4/12/07

When Maj. Mark Visconi was stationed in Iraq from March to October 2005, he was like many airmen in his position — focused on the mission to which he was assigned. Now, two years later, Visconi's time in Iraq has earned him the 2007 U.S. Air Force …

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Airman earns prestigious honor for time in Iraq

Posted

When Maj. Mark Visconi was stationed in Iraq from March to October 2005, he was like many airmen in his position — focused on the mission to which he was assigned. Now, two years later, Visconi's time in Iraq has earned him the 2007 U.S. Air Force Academy Col. James Jabara Award for Airmanship.

"It's presented to outstanding Air Force Academy graduates on an annual basis for single events or sustained achievements in aeronautical flight or airmanship," said Visconi, who serves as foreign policy advisor to 9th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Gary North.

Visconi, 37, a 1993 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, "distinguished himself through sustained superior airmanship while serving as a special operations instructor pilot assigned to the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team, Multi-National Security Transition Command (in) Iraq," says a press release from the institution.

The award is given annually to an academy graduate whose demonstrated leadership and outstanding initiative are credits to the U.S. Air Force, Visconi said.

"You have to be nominated," he said. "The awards process basically started in the middle of last year at my previous assignment."

Visconi was nominated while serving as assistant operations officer, lead program manager and instructor pilot for the 58 Training Squadron at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico.

"The awards nomination starts at the most basic level, at the squadron you're posted at," Visconi said. "My squadron commander at the time was the one who nominated me."

From there, Visconi was pitted against other nominated academy graduates until he was announced the winner last month.

"From the squadron level, it goes up through every echelon," he said. "It starts at the most basic level and works its way through the wing, then the major command, then it goes to the headquarters of the Air Force for competition."

Visconi's 106 combat sorties and 136 combat hours in Operation Iraqi Freedom while simultaneously training the fledgling Iraqi Air Force and conducting counter-insurgency operations made him an outstanding candidate for the award, although he said he finds the honor a bit surprising.

"I'm a little overwhelmed," he said. "It's an incredible honor."

He said he wouldn't have been able to be successful in his mission without the help of other airmen.

"There are others who have gotten to do that mission the same time that I did and that have come after the period that I had the opportunity to fly and work in Iraq," he said. "(The award) is an acknowledgement of a very challenging mission as it is an individual honor."

He said the award shows him and other airmen that those military personnel not stationed in Iraq understand what's going on there.

"I kind of look at it certainly as an Air Force and Air Force Academy acknowledgement of what we're doing over there," he said.

Contact Staff Writer Robert Baker at bbaker@theitem.com or (803) 774-1243.