Australian and New Zealand call sign Task Group Taji awarded a US artillery officer an Australian bronze commendation on February 15 for his role in protecting coalition forces at Camp Taji.

Second Lieutenant William Barron Thompson served dual roles at Camp Taji, Iraq, as Base Defence Operations Centre Officer in Charge and the aerial response force fire support officer.

“As soon as I entered theatre I became responsible for providing the Camp Taji Base Commander with intelligence to safeguard the base,” Second Lieutenant Thompson said.

His home unit is the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 125th Infantry Division out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska and while his unit did a good job preparing him for operations, it was in Iraq where he cut his teeth in a coalition environment.

“I loved working with the Australians and New Zealanders - they’re easy to work with. They get the job done and it’s a lot of fun. They love what they do,” he said.

“Task Group Taji opened my eyes to the strategic effects a coalition environment can have. It was a great place to enable operations to defeat Daesh.”

When an AH-64D Apache helicopter lost power and could not self-recover in Anbar Province last year, Second Lieutenant Thompson and the aerial response force were tasked to retrieve it.

“We pulled security, slung it up and flew it to Al Assad Air Base by Chinook,” Second Lieutenant Thompson said.

He also witnessed the persistent threat detection System (PTDS), a helium-filled blimp, detach from its tether and sail away almost 20 kilometres.

“The Iraq security forces recovered that,” he said laughing.

“The PTDS components were all accounted for and still intact when it was returned. Some sensors had been broken, but we sourced some parts from Afghanistan and it was operational shortly after that.”

Second Lieutenant Thompson will finish his tour of Iraq in June.