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612th AOC captain wins Air Force level award

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- A captain with the 612th Air Operations Center earned the Air Force-level Outstanding Information Operations Active Duty Company Grade Officer of the Year award July 30. 

Capt. Bob Bernazal, the 612th AOC Information Operations Integration Strategy Division chief, was recognized for his successes with Operation Willing Spirit, a mission to rescue three American civilian hostages in Colombia, and other AFSOUTH communications initiatives. 

The hostages were being held by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the FARC, an organization well-known for taking hostages and demanding ransoms to fund their operations. As the lead for special technical operations during Willing Spirit, Captain Bernazal was instrumental in the planning process. He slashed the approval process for plans involving special tactics operations from months to 16 days. 

"I'm very proud that Information Operations could bring its full power to bear in support of this mission," the Kingwood, Texas native said. "When the commander called upon us, we delivered. We identified ways to mitigate enemy operations and achieve our objective." 

The captain, a nine-year veteran of the Air Force, was also recognized for developing and implementing a new plan for utilizing Information Operations duty officers, successfully weaving the concept into Combat Operation Division processes while supporting a presidential visit to the 2008 Asian Pacific Economic Conference. He penned both a plan to counter Islamic fundamentalist as well as FARC threats, ensuring U.S. Southern Command was postured for mission success. He also developed critical information lists and comprehensive security plans that were vital to cloaking and denying adversary's access to sensitive information. 

"It's surreal to win this award," he said. "To be honest, any one of the guys involved in the project could have won. It wasn't just me. If my leadership didn't trust me enough to let me run with my ideas, it never would have happened. No one expects to be recognized for doing their job, but it's nice to be recognized for your hard work." 

Lt. Col. Billy Roberson, 612th AOC Information Operations chief and Captain Bernazal's commander, said the captain deserved the award for his ability and dedication. 

"Capt Bernazal's performance as an Information Operations expert has been vital to the success of this team," Colonel Roberson said. "His ability to think 'outside of the box' coupled with his tough analytical and planning skills have made him an invaluable member of our outstanding team. I'm truly honored to have him as a member of our IO family."

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