By Senior Airman Shanice Ship , 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England. —
U.S. Air Force Capt. Woodruff Johnson, 494th Fighter Squadron weapons systems officer, received the USAF Weapons School Robbie Risner Award Dec. 10, 2020, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The USAF Weapons School Robbie Risner Award is a tribute to Risner and all Vietnam era Prisoners of War. The award is presented annually to the outstanding graduate of the USAF Weapons School and commemorates the leadership, courage, and patriotism epitomized by Gen. Risner.
“This year’s Rob Risner award winner epitomized the weapons officer creed; humble, approachable and credible,” said Col. Jack Arthaud, Air Force Weapons School commandant. “He redefined joint-air integration standards for freedom of navigation operations in the Strait of Hormuz.”
The main purpose of the school is to ensure the readiness of the force. Its mission is to build, teach, and lead its tacticians to ensure that we are decisive in today’s fight and ready for the fight of tomorrow, Arthaud said.
“These students have spent the last five and a half months fighting adversary forces replicating the most capable threats in the world so that when they’re thrusted in the next conflict, they’ll be the ones saying ‘follow me’,” Arthuad said. “Our graduates will ensure that America’s sons and daughters are well led.”
Johnson, among 123 graduates, completed 380 hours each and 21 combat missions that tested his strategic warfighting capabilities.
“In this course, we have the opportunity to execute more tactical destruction and suppression of enemy defenses, capabilities that we don’t necessarily get to do at our home stations,” said Johnson. “Take for instance the latest radar advancement, the APG-82 radar; being able to take this capability back to my squadron strengthens our capacity as a forward-ready force.
According to Johnson, the ability of the panthers as the first squadron at the 48th FW ready to deploy with the advanced radar capability is an achievement that brings increased lethality to the total force, saying he is primed and ready to support the panthers and the mission.
“It comes as no surprise that our Mighty Black Panthers have once again been recognized for their wartime contributions,” said Col. Jason Camilletti, 48th Fighter Wing commander, “ We are extremely proud of Capt Johnson for earning this prestigious award. It is pros like him that ensure the Airmen from Lakenheath are always ready to own the skies.”
New weapons officers, like Johnson, return to the field to serve as unit weapons and tactics officers, leading combat missions and providing our senior leaders and decision makers with tactical, operational, and strategic impact support. This is an asset the 48th FW welcomes at the Liberty Wing.
“Being in a forward deployed location while also handling the surety mission shows the incredible fortitude, sacrifice, and get-it-done attitude that the panthers have and it’s great being a part of it,” said Johnson “I wanted to be the best instructor that I could be because I want to build others in my unit with matched resiliency and drive of the panther team.”
U.S. Air Force Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, also a graduate of the prestigious institution, shared advice to the graduates, including Johnson.
“You are leaving weapons school to enter an Air Force that needs you to step up and demonstrate everything that you’ve learned here. Don’t be afraid to be a leader, ” Harrigan said. “Our Air Force is extremely proud of what you’ve done over the last six months, but remember, the next game is coming and you guys are ready for it, so get after it.”