The Bronze Star is typically awarded for a heroic effort or achievement during military operations.
In Maj.-select David Sulhoff’s case, he was awarded a Bronze Star based on almost a year of heroic efforts across the central region of Afghanistan.
The son of Gainesville residents Roger and Nancy Sulhoff, he was awarded the medal during a ceremony on May 25 at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.. The commendation marked the range of duties he performed while stationed in Afghanistan from February 2009 to February of this year.
"When the colonel made the presentation, he pretty much made it clear it was for 363 days of doing an extraordinary job under extraordinary situations, and putting himself in extreme danger all the time," said Nancy Sulhoff. "It was very impressive to hear."
David Sulhoff, 32, graduated in 2001 with a civil engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and went directly into the Air Force. More recently, his work for the Air Force and the Army has him overseeing construction projects in eight provinces in Afghanistan, serving as an engineer for the camp where he was stationed and acting as a mentor for Afghan police and army members.
But Sulhoff is modest when it comes to the Bronze Star. The award, he said in a phone interview with The Times, is recognition of a job he’s doing anyway.
"When you’re performing a duty in any capacity in the military, generally, if you perform that duty well, they’re going to present you with an award or a medal to reflect strong performance in your duty," he said.
Although, he acknowledged the award isn’t taken lightly.
"In the Air Force it is a pretty high level award, especially for a captain," added Sulhoff, who recently was promoted to major from captain and will be pinned with his new rank some time next year. "And generally captains aren’t given the level of responsibility to warrant a Bronze Star, so for the Air Force it was a pretty big deal."
Sulhoff’s list of responsibilities is long. In the nominating letter submitted by Sulhoff’s commanding officer, Col.
Kenneth T. Braddock, he noted Sulhoff’s "unflagging efforts, meticulous attention to detail and knowledge and grasp of Army concepts was invaluable to the development of the Afghan security forces."
In his most recent year of deployment, Sulhoff participated in more than 100 combat patrols, as both driver and convoy commander; provided 24-hour, on-site security during the recent Afghan elections; and oversaw construction projects in dozens of places across central Afghanistan.
In particular, according to the nomination, Sulhoff spearheaded efforts to establish 17 permanent outposts in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In addition to being a mentor for members of the Afghan police and army, Sulhoff said his second duty is as a regional engineer because of his degree in civil engineering. "And for that I had to travel quite a bit."
"I had project managers at the ground level at several locations, but they’re not the engineers," he said. "So I would go out and make sure they are doing their projects correctly. If there was a problem, I would have to fly out."
The construction projects were mainly improvements to the country’s infrastructure.
Nancy said she’s always been proud of her son — and she never expected anything less.
"He’s a young man who just always excelled as a human being," she said. "I would never expect any less of him than he performed while he was in Afghanistan."
And while reading Braddock’s narrative — and learning about her son’s specific duties across Afghanistan — frightened her, she isn’t shocked by the Bronze Star award.
"I had no idea, making all those trips," she said. "But it didn’t surprise me that he won that kind of commendation."
Sulhoff and his wife, Rachel, have three children and will soon be stationed in Panama City, Fla. He also has two sisters and three brothers.
Given the work in which Sulhoff specializes, he expects to be back in Afghanistan some time next year.
He doesn’t have a specific date yet, but he said the work he does there is desperately needed "for the Afghan populace as well as the coalition forces that are over there."