14th Air Force winner has 'best job in the Air Force
By Chris Calkins, 45th SW Public Affairs
/ Published March 06, 2008
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- He readily admits he has the best job in the Air Force.
"What? Are you kidding me? I get paid to blow stuff up," said Master Sgt. George Price, Jr, flashing his million-dollar smile.
"Is there anything cooler than that?"
Sergeant Price, who recently was named the 14th Air Force Senior NCO of the Year, is the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron's Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight chief.
But it's not like he spends all his time here at Patrick Air Force Base.
A veteran of 19 years and a native of Bartow, Ga., he has deployed twice to Iraq, once to Afghanistan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, South America, South Africa and Egypt. He also deployed to Texas and Louisiana leading the Space Shuttle Colombia Recovery Team.
"It's part of the job... it's part of our job," he said, hesitant to use the word "I" in any sentence.
"Those of us in the EOD community feel we really do have a distinct sub-culture... and I don't mean that in a boastful way. What I mean is that we are a close-knit family in the very essence of the word. It's a feeling of camaraderie and belonging that I have difficulties putting into words, but we can all feel it. We'll literally give the shirts off our backs for our fellow EOD brothers and sisters," he said.
Sergeant Price also said he and his team - get used to him saying that - are proud to serve in so many joint-service assignments when deployed, especially with Army units.
"We regularly deploy and train for a couple months at stateside bases with our counterparts before we deploy overseas. We strive to maintain a constant state of readiness and endure rigorous training enabling us to handle the arduous tasks that await us in the AOR. It's my job to ensure that happens," he said.
"No squad can ever be stronger than its weakest link, and we make certain EOD is never looked upon in that negative light. We serve side-by-side with the units we deploy in direct-support of. We go on missions and perform our wartime task together, he said.
"We are truly 'Battlefield Airmen and Force Enablers'" he said with emphasis.
And yes, there have been times (more often than not), he related, when he and his teams have come under direct enemy fire.
In his last two back-to-back deployments to Iraq, Sergeant Price has earned the Air Force Combat Action Medal and two Army Combat Action Badges (meaning he was directly engaged by the enemy and returned fire) along with two Bronze Stars for heroism in combat.
"Its all part of the job," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. "I sure wasn't in harm's way alone. I thank God He enabled me to bring back everyone I deployed with."
Sergeant Price did admit the toughest part of his frequent deployments was the time he has to spend away from home, and away from his wife Kara, and four sons, Tony, 18, Georgie, 15, Gregory, 13 and Jacob, 4.
"Kara is wonderful. I'm truly blessed to have a woman like her running our home while I am gone. I know it's not easy, and therefore I'm very appreciative of the sacrifices she and the kids make while I'm gone. I also know not everyone who deploys can say they have that kind of support and trust back home, so I definitely don't take my family for granted. It means so very much to me to have that peace of mind so I can focus on the dangerous task of rendering safe and disposing of terrorist devices while we are deployed," he said.
Sergeant Price also said he's honored he was selected as the Senior NCO of the Year for 14th Air Force. He's very thankful and tries not to spend too much time thinking about it, but it is an overwhelming experience.
"It feels good for us (EOD) to be recognized for the contributions we make at home station, in the local community and while answering our nations call being deployed to austere locations I consider this a team award - but we're not in this business for awards, or for being in the spotlight, or anything that draws attention to us. That's just not our make-up," he said. "We're here to do what we think is a very important job, both here in the States and in direct support in the Global War on Terror," he said. "And we do it to the very best of our ability every single time we are called out. We depend on each other for everything - even to survive."