Darlington guardsman receives two service medals
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, email@example.com
When Darlington citizen Bryan Pipkin joined the South Carolina Army National Guard, he only intended to serve long enough to pay for his college education. Little did he know that he was embarking on a career that would span three decades, take him around the world, and allow him to earn several prestigious accolades for his work.
“I ended up having a career out of something that was only supposed to last four or five years,” says Pipkin, who has put in 31 years of military service, earned a master’s degree, and – as of this month – won the Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Most recently deployed to the Washington D.C. area as part of Operation Noble Eagle (a strategic homeland defense initiative begun by President George W. Bush in 2001), Pipkin also served from January of 2004 to January of 2005 in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was a battle captain, assistant operations officer, and convoy commander in several locations, including Nasiriyah and Baghdad.
“We ran a lot of gun truck missions and supported humanitarian missions. We helped the locals with medical supplies and services, clothing, backpacks. For the kids and adults that didn’t have health care, we would try to go out and help them when we weren’t running Army missions,” says Pipkin, whose road patrols ranged from Baghdad to Kuwait.
When possible, Pipkin says he and his fellow soldiers tried to visit some of the area’s historical sites, such as the Ziggurat of Ur, the Tigris River, Babylon, and the legendary lion’s den where the prophet Daniel faced an epic test of faith.
In 2014, he transferred from field artillery to air defense artillery and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. In August of 2016, he was deployed to D.C. as part of Operation Noble Eagle and served there for a year. Pipkin was a tactical director for the 678 ADA Brigade responsible for command and control of the ground-based air defense assets in the nation’s capitol region. A necessarily secretive operation, Pipkin can’t say much about Noble Eagle, but he provided briefings to senior leaders like Gen. Lori Robinson, Commander of US NORTHCOM and NORAD.
After he returned home, within the span of a few months, Pipkin received both the Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal for performance, excellence in leadership, and technical and tactical expertise.
“I wound up getting two medals, one from the Air Force and one from the Army, and that doesn’t typically happen,” says Pipkin. “It was either through luck or hard work, one or the other.”
Home now as a regular citizen soldier, Pipkin works with Duke Energy. He began there as a technician in 1996 and has worked his way up to a position as a senior technician/job sponsor. He says he is very grateful to Duke for their commitment to him and other National Guard and Reserve service members, as the company has been very patient and understanding about the time they require for their training and deployments.
Pipkin says now that his military obligations aren’t taking him away from home so much, he plans to take a more active role in the community, perhaps by running for local office and continuing what has become a lifelong habit of service.