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Canadian officer garners Air Force medal

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles regarding the Canadian forces’ contributions to Air Force Space Command.

A Canadian officer, previously assigned to the 21st Operations Support Squadron here, returned to the 21st Space Wing Headquarters Building on April 17 for an award ceremony in her honor.

Capt. Teresa Holla is the fourth of 50 Canadian Team Pete members over the past five years to receive a U.S. Air Force Commendation Medal. She is currently the exercise planner in the Exercises, training and development section, North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Captain Holla served as the 21st OSS chief of the systems integration section from July 11, 2002, until June 30, 2004.

“Her position was particularly critical at that time, as the 21st Operations Group was undergoing heavy upgrades and system changes,” said Maj. Jason Gross, 21st OSS operations officer. “She directly supported all 21st SW Space Warning and Space Control squadrons.”

Major Gross presented the medal while Lt. Col. Randy Pagan, 21st OSS commander, presided over the ceremony.

Captain Holla was recognized for several medal-worthy accomplishments while serving as section chief. She not only streamlined approval processes, eliminating 840 man hours per year; but she played a pivotal role following the system decertification of a Deep Space Sensor. Captain Holla coordinated with various agencies to reduce the range error from 1,480 meters to 100 meters, which allowed the system to be recertified.

Members from Captain Holla’s current chain of command joined 21st OSS members at the ceremony to acknowledge Captain Holla’s contribution to their mission.

“I just wanted to thank you for what you did before I got here. Your work then has made my job easier now,” said Master Sgt. Richard Frey, 21st OSS NCO in charge of current operations.

Major Gross commended the captain’s contributions while acknowledging the bigger picture, “I am proud to be able to present this medal to you. I think it allows us another opportunity to publicly recognize the interaction between the U.S. and Canadian Air Forces. From the Canadian manpower at NORAD, to sitting side-by-side with the crews at the consoles, we are sharing and interacting more than ever. Though this may currently be a rarity, I believe we should expect to see many more Canadians on the receiving end of Air Force medals.”

Captain Holla and Major Gross discussed the reasons for the rare medals with Lt. Col. Stephen Sibbald, J656 branch chief, NORAD/U.S. Northern Command.

“The process isn’t as difficult as some may think. It’s more a matter of educating those individuals who are in a position to submit the Canadians for a medal,” Captain Holla said.

“It’s just one more process in which we can work together and align our mission,” Colonel Sibbald said. “We share so many different aspects of our mission in space and in the defense of North America, it is only logical we do so administratively, as well. This is, and will continue to be a win-win situation for both the United States and Canada.”

There are currently 30 Canadians working in Air Force Space Command, all of whom are eligible for Air Force medals.