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Hastings native Capt. Ryan Ernst is honored with two awards

Air Force Capt. Ryan Ernst of Hastings was recently presented the Bronze Star and the Army Accommodation Medal.

According to the narrative read at the Bronze Star medal presentation, "1LT (first lieutenant - he has since been promoted to captain) Ernst distinguished himself through exceptionally meritorious service in a combat zone from Oct. 22, 2010 to June 30, 2011, while assigned as the S-7, Information Operations Officer, Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction (PRT), Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in support of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations. As the Mission director of the S-7 IO office, Ernst flawlessly served as the coalition's frontline information warfare officer, simultaneously leading a staff of junior officers, NCOs and local nationals on all public affairs, information operations and photographic efforts for Provincial restoration Team Nangarhar."

The narrative also indicated that Ernst worked well and "tirelessly" with the State Department to forge new self-sustaining relationships with American universities and the University of Nangarhar. He led 10 media contracts, coordinated with the National Ground Intelligence Center and the National Security Agency to create an all-inclusive information overlay for Nangarhar Province detailing 386 information related nodes.

Ernest worked to establish a positive working relationship with the Afghan National Army, promoted 30 influential local media coalition messages per day. He also tested a new "Why We Are Here" DVD on many audiences across Nangarhar in order to explain the presence and purpose of coalition forces.

"Ernst's exemplary performance of duty in a combat zone reflects great credit upon himself, Task Force Bastogne, Regional Command East, and the United States Air Force," the narrative concluded.

The Army Accommodation Medal indicates four achievements - coordination of the actions of eight PRT staff sections and eight battalion and division level civilian and military units to ensure the successful operation of information warfare efforts at Nangarhar University; management of the Nangarhar University operations of the Female Engagement Team resulting in the first-ever Parents Day for the top 40 female students from four districts in Nangarhar and their elder male companion; facilitation of the creation of a communications department, medal center and new three-story-building at the university; and being the sole point on contact in Nangarhar Province for the distribution of a magazine which was distributed across Nangarhar. He also created a

"first of a kind" internship program which provided summer jobs and training to third- and fourth-year students through a partnership formed between Jalalabad municipality and the University.