Aviano SA receives Bronze Star Medal

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cary Smith
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

A man with close-cropped, salt-and-pepper hair, stood in his pin-striped suit as his wife and two daughters watched with tear-filled eyes during an event Dec. 5, 2016.


The event was a happy one where a one-star general flew across an ocean to pin a Bronze Star Medal on Robert Binns, Air Force Office of Special Investigations Detachment 531 superintendent, for his meritorious service in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013.


After Brig. Gen. Keith Givens, AFOSI commander, made his remarks about Binns’ dedication to the mission and read the medal citation, Binns spoke about the real reasons for his success.


“Family, teamwork and humility are the things I’ve learned are important,” said Binns. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my family at home and at work.”


Teamwork and family make up the foundation of Binns’ work philosophy; a philosophy that he adopted and evolved nearly 18 years ago after his first encounter with another agent.


“I first saw an AFOSI agent when I was a senior airman in the dorms at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington.” said Binns. “The agents were performing a dorm search and I was like, ‘Whoa, who are these guys in the suits.”


Binns spent the next four years thinking about the chance to wear a suit and someday run his own unit.


“AFOSI is one of the few Air Force career fields where an enlisted member can run the unit,” said Binns. “I like a challenge, and I constantly want to push to the next thing, so I made it a point be in AFOSI.”


Eight years into his military service, Binns’ application was finally accepted, and after becoming a special agent, he was sent on his first deployment to Saudi Arabia, where the idea of teamwork started to sink in.


“It was a great first deployment because it was a low threat environment,” said Binns. “I was able to learn so much about counter intelligence, or CI, and how to effectively communicate with teammates and local agencies.”


Binns learned how to liaison, how to work with an interpreter, and how to talk with sources to gather information.


Those lessons guided him during a second deployment, which was in Iraq, where the work environment was different.


“Iraq had more threats and we couldn’t just go into town. There was a different mindset because we were constantly making sure everyone was safe,” said Binns. “Our teams performed a lot of work outside the wire, following up on sources and gathering information.”


Binns had to rely on the knowledge of those in charge of him and trust in his own skills to protect the team. Living and working in a deployed location caused his teammates to become family and Binns wanted to see them return safely at the end of each day.


“Iraq was a good stepping stone for my CI skills and I brought that knowledge back to home station,” said Binns.


At this point, Binns was moving up in rank, acquiring more responsibilities while taking care of his wife and two children at home. But just when he felt settled, his dedication to the mission helped land him a deployed senior master sergeant position, as a master sergeant.


“That was a big deal, and an incredible responsibility and, looking back now, I can see why it was supposed to be a senior position,” said Binns. “I’m thankful for my leadership trusting me and pushing for me to get the spot.”


His two previous deployments trained him for his most hostile and challenging deployment – Afghanistan.


“Time seemed to fly by because I was so busy jobbing it,” said Binns. “We were up early every morning, working long hours, all while avoiding improvised explosive devices and getting rocketed at regularly.”


He said without the support from his family and teammates, he would not have been able to focus on his job – working to keep U.S. military members safe.


In August 2013, mortars were constantly fired at the airfield where Binns was deployed. Binns led a team outside the wire to apprehend the primary suspect. After the successful capture, he then led his team to find and apprehend and a Taliban rocketeer and two high-value targets planning to attack coalition forces.


“My team and I used CI with the help of several agencies to track these threats,” said Binns. “We were using air support to follow up on intelligence leads to figure out who was launching rockets and placing IEDs.”


During his 12 month deployment, Binns directed efforts that led to 1,672 pieces of information gathered and 105 enemy captures.  


As December 2013 came to a close, Binns found himself back in northern Italy. Now years later, he thinks back to his experiences in Afghanistan and looks forward to his next assignment and the possibility of leading his own AFOSI unit.