Many Airmen have the opportunity to implement changes and find better procedures within their workplace, but few are able to upgrade their unit to the extent one Airman has, and he was honored for his dedication.
Lt. Col. Scott Case, Polygone Warrior Preparation Center Detach-ment 3 commander, was awarded the Silver Cross of Honor of the German armed forces in April 2015 in Bann, Germany, for his efforts to bring Polygone, a multinational aircrew electronic warfare tactics facility, into the 21st century.
“It was honestly the single biggest honor I’ve received in my entire life,” Case said. “I was completely caught off guard when they awarded it to me.”
Polygone is a tri-national organization between the U.S., Germany and France that provides pilots with combat training by using simulators and real-world, surface-to-air missile systems, so keeping the facility as up to date as possible is important.
It was for this reason, despite it being uncommon for an American to have received this award, that the German military made the exception for Case.
“It’s not very often this cross is awarded to a non-German,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Emig, German Polygone Detachment commander, who recommended Case for the award. “It’s a very special gesture of the German air force to present the award to a U.S. service member.”
When Case arrived to his assignment, many of the systems that were in place were over 20 years old, which he felt didn’t provide the training pilots required for today’s combat situations.
“We were in a position where Polygone was possibly going to close, and U.S. Air Forces in Europe was going to lose this training capability,” Case said. “I had to work closely with the German and the French air forces to come up with a solution that would carry the range into the next century and be able to provide modern training to aircrews.”
One of the updates implemented by Case was securing funds for the development of a new mobile operations center. Designed by an American company, it was specifically for the needs and use of Polygone.
“This new capability allows us to move things around wherever we want it, and we can really challenge the pilots and make it look more representative of a modern adversary’s combat environment,” Case said. “We can really push the limits of aircrew training now.”
By upgrading Polygone’s systems, Case not only provided U.S. pilots with the training they need, he did the same for German and French pilots as well. He worked with the German and French commanders to make Polygone a smooth, joint operation that benefits everyone involved, and the German military awarded him for his diligence.
“I recommended him for this honor because he worked restlessly and efficiently to support aircrew, giving them training that can save their lives, which makes our air forces better,” Emig said. “I was very happy the leadership of the German air force recognized his efforts.”
Case also worked to upgrade Polygone’s range, making it capable of replicating the modern integrated air defense systems of potential adversaries.
This new capability additionally allows for the system to be implemented within the Polygone operating area and in any major exercise throughout Europe. A benefit from that is pilots no longer have to fly to Polygone for training but can train near the aircraft home station. This saves the Air Force time and resources that had previously been spent on travel. Also, the new system offers aircrews real-time feedback, a first for USAFE.
“Case’s achievements have also cleared the path for stationing even the most modern U.S. fighter planes in Europe, as they can only train here if Polygone is up to date,” said Maj. Gen. Helmut Schuetz, German Force Operational Forces Command vice commander, who presented Case the award. “He has had a direct influence on the Bundeswehr’s combat readiness and contributed to a safer Europe. He is an outstanding representative of his country.”
Case recalled the day he was presented the award and how he was completely unaware that it was for him. He was asked to join everyone outside, and when he fell in formation with the others, Schuetz pointed to him and said he was standing in the wrong spot.
“I realized that this whole thing was to get me out there to present the award to me,” Case said. “Even my wife was in on it, and they kept it a secret from me.”