Rising Above

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Antwain L. Hanks
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

No one is born a leader.

Leaders are bred through the struggles, battles and situations they may find themselves in. They are those who develop the bravery and courage to rise above during dangerous times and protect the lives of those around them.

Master Sgt. Timothy L. Fagan, 726th Air Control Squadron Flight Superintendent, rose above and led his team of 13 Airmen, despite facing immense obstacles during their extended deployment. The military operations Fagan’s team supported, against Iran, grabbed global attention. Fagan’s exemplary leadership, personal endeavor and devotion to duty earned him the Bronze Star Medal for his meritorious achievement while deployed.

In October of 2019, Fagan and his team of 13 took off from Mountain Home AFB to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. Unlike his prior deployment, Fagan was the ranking member of this team of technicians.

“It was a great honor and privilege to help several of my Airmen through their first deployment, because I was able to give them some level of expectation of how things would go,” Fagan said. “I am incredibly proud of our team and am grateful for the opportunity I had leading them.”

Fagan took it upon himself to help his younger Airmen understand what to expect, what to bring, and how to prepare themselves.

Half way through Fagan’s deployment, the pressure between Iran and the United States rose. The death of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani caused United States and Iranian tensions to grow. With Fagan’s close proximity to Iran, the increasing possibility of a retaliation strike escalated the security posture of the installation.

Fagan and his team hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst - He ensured they knew the location of the nearby bunkers, and was their shoulder to lean on during a time of crisis.

“When the tensions started to rise so did the uncertainty,” Fagan said. “There was always a lingering unknown of what was gonna happen next.”

On January 8, 2020, Iranian ballistic missiles impacted Fagan’s location. Ultimately, it was his proven ability to recognize danger, prepare his Airman and execute without hesitation that ensured his team’s safe return home.

A day prior to this attack, to ensure the safety and well being of his people, Fagan ordered his team to repair a bunker that had been flooded with water.

As Fagan’s deployment went on, major events started happening around the world - the infection rates for COVID-19 were on the rise. He and his team suffered just like everyone else but without the benefit of being with loved ones during these challenging times.

As the installation began to be directly affected by COVID, key facilities to maintain morale started to disappear. Places like the gym, dining facilities and ability to hold social gatherings were taken away. They knew that they would have to look to each other to keep spirits up and push one another so the mission would still be accomplished despite COVID.

“It was like watching a movie when we saw the news back home,” Fagan said. “We were in disbelief of everything happening. Despite that, we knew we would have to lean on each other to make sure the mission was still accomplished.”

After completing their six-month obligation in Southwest Asia, but unable to return home because of COVID, Fagan and his team were tasked to move their entire site while still maintaining communication between aircraft and Air Battle Managers.

To do this, Fagan’s team had to re-commission non-operational equipment. With precision, Fagan’s team revived this equipment, ultimately maintaining two separate sites miles away from each other.

Maintaining this communication suite was vital in the execution of over 280 deliberate strikes, resulting in over 140 enemies killed in action, including the United States’ top two high value terrorist targets.

“You always are told ‘what you do contributes to the mission’,” Fagan said. “But, seeing the effects of your contributions unfold in the real world makes you feel pride in what you do.”

Through all this, Fagan displayed extraordinary leadership and exemplary camaraderie by shepherding his Airmen through numerous contingency operations while down range.

“Despite being the sole leader, I couldn't have done it without my team,” Fagan said. “Every event is a team sport. I was responsible for everyone, but taking care and drawing strength from each other got us through the deployment.”

No one is born a leader - But Fagan rose to the occasion when his country and Airmen needed him most. His actions coincide with the proud heritage of The United States Air Force and demonstrate the effectiveness of strong leadership.