Air Force Cross Airman honors Intelligence Squadron legacy

Master Sgt. Robert Gutierrez Jr., Battlefield Airmen Training Group standards, and evaluation, poses for a portrait May 18, 2018 in Laurel, Md.  Gutierrez is a combat controller who was on the team in Afghanistan in 2009 that conducted ad high-risk operations that eventually captured the second most powerful leader of the Taliban in that region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Master Sgt. Robert Gutierrez Jr., Battlefield Airmen Training Group standards, and evaluation, poses for a portrait May 18, 2018 in Laurel, Md. Gutierrez is a combat controller who was on the team in Afghanistan in 2009 that conducted ad high-risk operations that eventually captured the second most powerful leader of the Taliban in that region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. --

Heritage. It doesn’t have to be something tangible handed down, it can also be something that gives a sense of pride and belonging. In September 1944, the 11th Photographic Technical Unit was constituted, and on May 18, 2018, an Air Force Cross recipient, Master Sgt. Robert Gutierrez Jr., assisted the 29th Intelligence Squadron with honoring the 11th’s legacy at their Heritage Day ceremony.

During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Robert Vidoloff, commander, 29th IS, said this year’s Heritage Day was meant to be specific. 

On May 18, 1959, the 432nd Reconnaissance Technical Squadron was inactivated after a tour in which their Airmen, using reconnaissance aircraft, provided the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing support for ground troops. The unit is also the one from which the 29th IS was derived.  

“We have a fantastic Airman who came to share his story with us,” Vidoloff said of the events keynote speaker. “He has had 13 combat deployments and has been a combat controller since he entered the Air Force in 2002.”

From 2008 to 2009, Gutierrez was part of the 321st Special Tactics Squadron. While he was on a routine patrol in Afghanistan, his unit was suddenly attacked. Using intelligence that was given to him and his convoy by ISR Airmen, he was able to find cover and coordinate needed air support.  

The Airmen of the 29th clapped as the combat controller walked to the podium, standing not behind it but in front of it, smiling ear-to-ear with a sense Airmanship. Gutierrez, currently a member of the Battlefield Airmen Training Group, began with just a few words, “Thank you for this opportunity. Coming from an operator, we need each other, and thank you for how you support our efforts.

“As one of four living and serving Air Force Cross recipients, I am afforded the wonderful opportunity to speak to our Air Force and reinforce the importance of our Air Force core values in our everyday duty and lives,” Gutierrez said.

“The significance of the 29th IS is intel,” Gutierrez explained. “In my profession, we drive and take the fight to the enemies through a plethora of information via signals intelligence, human intelligence or other avenues. Intel plays a monumental role in our fight against our nation’s enemies, and the future adversaries we will be challenged by. I was brought in (today) to explain, from a ground warfighter’s (perspective), the importance of the 29th IS's role in supporting our forces across the globe with (intelligence) to help our warfighters and air assets.”

As the event continued, Airmen heard about the impact they have, and are continuing to have, on a daily basis. Not just within their “bubble,” but assisting warfighters downrange.

“Times and technology have changed,” Gutierrez said. “We’re better, we’re smarter and more efficient. It cost me a lot physically, but what matters more is getting the job done. What you do is important and it helps people like me stay alive.” 

Gutierrez concluded with some parting words that seemed to resonate with the Airmen in the audience.

“It's my honor to serve with such great team members,” he said. “I value our most cherished and important asset in the Air Force, which in my opinion is our people. Without our hard-working Airmen, we wouldn't be the world's greatest Air Force.”