27th Security Forces Airman earns DoD honors

Janet Taylor-Birkey

The young lieutenant didn’t think he stood a chance. Even his father, a 20-year master sergeant, didn’t think he stood a chance.
It wasn’t because he wasn’t good. As the only lieutenant out of five finalists he was at the top of his game.
But he was competing against a captain who was a pilot and plenty of others who were also exceptionally qualified.
But he was proud, and had enjoyed the trip that allowed him a visit with his dad, stepmother and brother.
“And then they called my name.” He had indeed won.
And his father? He wound up on the floor from falling out of his chair backward, overcome with the pride of a father for a son.
This is how 1st Lt. Jonathon Murray, 27th Security Forces Squadron recalls the day he became the 2006 Capt. Robert W. Williams Military Award Winner, part of the 35th Annual Tuskegee Airmen Awards, held this year in Phoenix, Ariz.
“It was pretty impressive, almost surreal,” Lieutenant Murray mused, still appearing to find it difficult that he had truly won the Department of Defense level award. “It’s like being first pick of the NBA draft – that’s how shocking it was.”
Certainly impressive, certainly surreal. The company grade officer (CGO) award, based on leadership accomplishments, self-improvement and community service, had a pool of 400 nominees to draw from. And then there were five.
Lieutenant Murray entered the Air Force with a degree in kinesiology (the study of body movements) and a desire to pay down his school bill, but by his own admission, he has gained much more, among other things, high respect from his supervisor, Capt. Christopher Neiman, 27th Security Forces commander.
“First Lieutenant Jon Murray has performed exceptionally within Security Forces both at home and deployed. As a first lieutenant, he has been fulfilling the role of Operations and Training Flight commander within the unit, a position typically held by a seasoned captain,” said Captain Neiman. This role includes commanding the flight line and front gate troops along with commanding the K-9 unit, overseeing jail confinements and securing unit training.
Training is a priority for Lieutenant Murray, since he knows first hand what it means to have to rely on the training received.
As commander of a gun truck security convoy traveling through Balad, Iraq, Lieutenant Murray and his troops were hit by enemy fire, that killed a third-country national on their team. The convoy returned fire, recovered the body and returned it for a proper burial and was soon on the road again.
One of the more amazing things about his tour at Forward Operating Base Speicher was, “You don’t know how much you are loved.” He said when the convoy returned to their mission, nationals were lined along the road, waving American flags and blowing kisses. “They know you put your life on the line for them.”
Asked about the fear factor, Lieutenant Murray said, “You don’t have time to be scared. You react and go on auto pilot.” He credits 18 – hour days, seven days a week for two months for providing him the training that saved his and his troops lives.
“We have the goal to bring all of our troops home,” said Lieutenant Murray. “I’m coming home, so I’m going to pay attention to this training.”
But why are activities such as community involvement important for this young officer?
“It creates a total package of what you can provide to your troops,” said Lieutenant Murray, who then posed the question of how can leaders ask their troops to be involved if they do not get involved themselves?
Lieutenant Murray will pin on the rank of captain in about nine months, but then what? Are his future walls decorated with more military awards and his clothing with more impressive rank patches? Captain Neiman believes Lieutenant Murray has a bright future with the Air Force. “He is, and will no doubt continue to be an experienced and valued asset [to] the [security forces] career field.”
Lieutenant Murray said he is not sure of what the future will bring, but plans to stay “as long as I’m having fun. Anytime I’m allowed to do that, makes it worthwhile.”