University of Louisville honors Kentucky Air Guardsmen during U of L-EKU football game

  • Published
  • By Maj. Dale Greer
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Three Kentucky Air National Guardsmen were honored Saturday by the University of Louisville during the U of L-Eastern Kentucky University football game as part of Military Appreciation Day.

The game began at noon when Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, adjutant general of the Kentucky National Guard, executed the coin toss at center field of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Then, during a timeout in the second quarter, the three Kentucky Airmen were brought on the field to recognize their service to the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard.

Honored were Lt. Col. Bruce Bancroft, a C-130 pilot and commander of the 123rd Global Mobility Readiness Squadron; Master Sgt. Robert Fernandez, a combat controller in the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron; and Staff Sgt. Jarrod Blanford, an aerial port specialist in the 123rd Contingency Response Group.

Bancroft has deployed multiple times in support of operations around the world, including four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. During those tours, Bancroft flew more than 500 combat hours in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He also deployed for relief operations following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the nuclear power plant disaster in Japan in 2011.

Fernandez also has deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he directed numerous air strikes on enemy insurgents; and to the Gulf Coast region of the United States where he supported massive rescue operations following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Fernandez is a former football player for the University of Louisville.

Blanford deployed to Iraq in 2009 for a six-month tour as a cargo handler and aerial port specialist in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The following year, he volunteered to deploy to the Dominican Republic to assist in the opening of two airfields supporting earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti.

In 2012, Blanford deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During this mobilization, he volunteered 300 hours of his personal time to a NATO Combat Hospital in Kandahar. At the hospital, Blanford provided emergent care to U.S. military members, coalition forces and Afghan National Army personnel who sustained battlefield injuries. He also assisted in the care of multiple patients who suffered amputations or burns, and prepared wounded warriors for airlift transport out of the theater.

Prior to the game, members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron and the 123rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight staffed static displays of equipment outside the stadium, answering questions from sports fans about the Kentucky Air Guard's multiple mission sets.