A Fayette native aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) was honored with a Bronze Star July 31 for his work as an individual augmentee during a Global Support Assignment in Iraq from 2008-09.
Chief Aviation Electronics Technician (SW) Tracy Lavinder, assigned to Truman's Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD), received the award from Truman’s commanding officer, Capt. Joseph Clarkson, during a ceremony while deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Individual augmentee refers to a military member who is assigned to augment a unit to fill shortages, often with a different branch of service.
Since 1944, the Bronze Star has been awarded to members of the military for combat heroism and meritorious service.
“Chief Lavinder did great work over there with detainee operations, which is not easy work,” said Clarkson. “This award is a token of the nation’s appreciation for that effort and sacrifice.”
Lavinder said he was honored to receive the award, but gave credit to those who served with him in Iraq for his success there.
“I got this Bronze Star because I was lucky enough to have great junior personnel working for me over there,” Lavinder said. “They are the ones who took care of business day in and day out. Detainee ops is a tough job, and has a lot of importance in Iraq because it can determine how Iraqis and the rest of the world view American forces. We treated the detainees with dignity and respect, and it made a huge difference in that area of the country.”
While Lavinder was happy to have his hard work rewarded, the idea of the Bronze Star was something he was still trying to get used to.
“When I look at what people have won Bronze Stars for in the past, I have to be proud of mine, but compared to what they did, I am not sure I really deserve one,” he said. “I was just blessed to be working with great people. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get something like this.”
Lavinder was joined at the ceremony by three members of his team from Iraq who are currently serving on the Truman. Just as he credited them for his success, they didn’t hesitate to point out that his leadership was what made the difference.
“I am very proud to have served with him,” said Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Gerardo Torres, who received an Army Commendation Medal for his service. “I got very lucky to have a chance to have a leader like him. He had humility in all aspects of his work, from respect for us to respect for the detainees. I know we came back safe because of his leadership.”
Lavinder’s Bronze Star qualities are well known and respected on board Truman.
“He doesn't mind getting his hands dirty, and he leads by example,” said Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Chris Lent, who has worked for Lavinder for more than a year in AIMD. “He always makes sure the job gets done, but he creates a positive work environment.”
Lavinder’s team served a nine-month tour in Iraq.
“Our job wasn’t easy there,” he said. “My team is the reason I have this award, and I really appreciate what they did for me.”
Lavinder will soon mark his 23rd year of service with the Navy and he intends to retire next year.
He is the son of Karen (and the late Jerry) Lavinder of Fayette.