Jacksonville, Fla.— Cmdr. Mitchell R. Conover was awarded the Bronze Star Medal on Sept. 17 at Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) for distinguished service while serving as Brigade Electronic Warfare (EW) Officer, 18th Combat Engineer Brigade, Iraq from May 31, 2008 to March 12, 2009 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He is the son of Charlie and Betty Conover of Star Valley.
His tactical and technical efforts to implement direct radio command and control between Route Clearance (RC) teams on the ground and the military aircraft supporting from above were relentless. Conover’s innovative solutions to detect and suppress enemy Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Devices (RCIED) saved American lives on the battlefield, military officials said.
He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering and earned a Master of Science degree in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee Space Institute in 2006.
To prepare him to deploy combat-ready, Conover attended the Navy Individual Augmentation Combat Training (NIACT) at Fort McCoy, Wis. in April 2008.
He reported to Joint Counter Radio Electronic Warfare (JCREW) Composite Squadron One (JCCS-1) in Baghdad, Iraq in May. The unit’s mission was to integrate and synchronize electronic warfare and JCREW operations for coalition forces.
As the primary EW Officer for nine months, Conover was involved in every aspect of the mission. He ensured the brigade maintained critical EW coverage for its tactical vehicles, which cleared more than 196,000 kilometers of rugged terrain in Northern Iraq.
His leadership enabled soldiers and Marines to conduct combat operations in the safest and most effective manner possible against an elusive enemy.
“We neutralized the RCIED threat to Army and Marine Corps ground units by ensuring supply routes were cleared. Our vehicles were specifically designed and better equipped to clear IEDs,” he said.
These vehicles outfitted with onboard systems to prevent IED detonations have a proven track record of reducing casualties through EW coordination and JCREW operations.
Operating in areas considered to be hotbeds of enemy activity, the 18th Engineer Brigade moved among three locations: Contingency Operations Base (COB) Speicher near Tikrit, Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warrior at Kirkuk, and FOB Marez near Mosul.
“We didn’t stay in one spot very long. We moved around the country a lot,” he said.
While assigned to the brigade, Conover gained a greater appreciation for the Army, its mission and the soldiers who endured many hardships.
To see him through the long months of isolation and loneliness, Conover relied on his strong faith in God.
“I was reminded of the Old Testament, Psalm 139 how it says God’s thoughts for us outnumber the grains of sand. Well, I saw a lot of sand,” he mused.
He appreciated the efforts of a volunteer group in, the Payson Supply Line, who supported deployed troops by sending monthly care packages to the desert.
“I shared them with the brigade staff, which made me very popular,” he recalled.
FRCSE Commanding Officer Paul Sohl, who had never before had the honor of pinning a Bronze Star, was privileged to present the medal to his friend and fellow F/A-18 Hornet pilot. He said, “Mitch did his job in order for our soldiers and Marines to do theirs. It was a personal sacrifice on his part and a sacrifice on his family’s part.”
The pinning ceremony took place in the FRCSE F/A-18 Hornet hangar as Conover’s family, friends and co-workers looked on. Conover credits his successful tour to the support of his family.
IA sailors and their families are an integral part of the Navy and mission success in overseas contingency operations. Conover’s wife, Becki, said, “I’m glad it’s over. It was a tough road, but we made it. He never shares much of what he did over there, but I’m very proud of him.”