'Good Neighbor' Reservist earns second Bronze Star

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Tony Edwards strives at a task many people have an issue doing in life- planning. As a State Farm Insurance agent, he routinely sits down with clients to discuss a plan on navigating potential obstacles in life. He is able to move people from one stage in life to another. The Citizen Airman from Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 446th Airlift Wing just added a second Bronze Star in three years for putting this skill to use as a logistics officer.

The 43-year-old major received his first Bronze Star in 2008, for supporting the Army with logistics in Afghanistan. He earned his second star after playing an essential role in successfully transferring control of Kirkuk Regional Air Base to Iraqi control in 2011.

"I feel blessed that I was put in the position to earn one, let alone two," said Edwards, the 86th Aerial Port Squadron commander out of JBLM, McChord Field. "But there are a lot of people doing significant things (in the theater) every day."

Notwithstanding his modesty, wing leadership doesn't let Edwards' efforts and guidance go overlooked.

"He makes us a stronger team," said Col. Gerald Vowell, 446th Mission Support Group commander. "Major Edwards can lead and direct, has a clear vision, and gets results in a timely manner. His can-do, get-it-done attitude motivates everyone."

His most recent deployment was a prime example of him leading the way forward.

"We were getting ready to shut down the base and we were being attacked all of the time," Edwards said. "The wing commander turned to me, and the pressure was on. We had to figure out what was leaving, when it was leaving, and figure out the best means to do it, and in a logical, logistical, and flowing way. As we moved things out, we were also losing our resources, so we had to do more with less. We didn't have time for buy in, but at the same time, I had to rely on my enlisted leadership to keep things moving."

Edwards proved he could get results on the civilian side as well. He's conquered all but one of State Farm Insurance's tributes for top performance in his 10 years as an agent. Edwards prominently displays the awards in his office but he hasn't let these achievements go to his head.

"I'm very happy with the levels we've achieved, but there's always more I'd like to do," he said, regarding his State Farm team here.

State Farm Corporate also zeroed in on Edwards' ability to stand out in both the military and civilian arenas.

"Tony has qualified for a number of State Farm recognition programs, proving he excels at setting goals and exceeding them while involving his team in driving performance," said Carolyn Lee, State Farm Agency & Operations vice president. "He's a great role model and has demonstrated that one can serve the needs of the country while meeting the needs of customers and community."

With leadership on both ends of the spectrum tracking Edwards' laundry list of successes, the Snohomish, Wash. resident stays on point with one of his biggest priorities- his family.

"My family is very supportive and proud," said the husband and father of three. "They admire having a military person in the house. I have a strong team that works its tail off when I'm deployed, and they've been very loyal and very proud. Without the support of my wife and family, I don't feel that I'd be able to deploy."

This readiness begins with being a positive influence for his Airmen.

"I have to set the example of how they need to be as military professionals," said the prior-enlisted Edwards. "I need to make sure I emulate the Air Force core values to fullest, and make sure my troops see that. My goal is to have a squadron full of ready Reservists who are able to go in and do the job effectively. I want them to technically have the ability to do the job and not come up short. When tasked, I'll have a squadron full of people who are ready for the mission- physically, mentally, and socially."

Carolyn Heston, a licensed staffer at Edwards' insurance office, says she sees those values in him almost every day.

"He's really good at listening to us to see what's working," she said. "He's also very generous in rewarding us. If he earns something, he'll share it with us."

Positive reinforcement is an approach Edwards utilizes to be effective when leading a team, as opposed to penalizing those who don't measure up to the task.

"I recognize the winners and the people who do the job right, rather than chew out the ones who don't," he said. "If I shine the light on the ones who lead from the back and the middle, and give them praise every chance I get, then hopefully everyone else will follow."

In the end, he makes it all work out.

"There's no cookie-cutter way to make it work. That's life," Edwards, who spends his "spare" time kicking back and watching sports, said. "It's a matter of re-balancing myself to make sure I'm giving everybody (family, State Farm, and Reserve) the right amount of attention, because all three of them need me. I try to use my leadership principles to set the right direction and goals. Once you set a clear direction, it's all about balance."

As far as earning the Bronze Star, Edwards credits being part of his favorite airlift wing.

"I have a lot of pride when I see a 446th C-17 no matter where I'm at," he said. "We have a history of success. I'm proud to be part of a unit that gets it done right."