21-061 Mechanical Engineer Michael Timm receives Meritorious Civilian Service Medal

Published Nov. 10, 2021

WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Mechanical Engineer Michael Timm received a Meritorious Civilian Service Medal at a ceremony held today at 1 p.m. in Walla Walla, Washington.

The Secretary of the Army awarded Timm this medal “for his superior performance and distinguished service June – August 2021 with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.” During this time, Timm “exhibited exceptional leadership, professionalism, and courage through his actions” during the withdrawal from Kabul, Afghanistan.

His award narrative read as follows:

“Mr. Michael Timm exhibited exceptional competence and courage in the performance of his duties which directly improved the performance of Department of Defense employees during the retrograde and subsequent withdrawal of forces out of Afghanistan from June-August 2021. Serving as a Mechanical Engineer assigned to the US Corps of Engineers Expeditionary Workforce, Mike was without a doubt, one of the main reasons DoD forces were able to retrograde and withdraw from Kabul, Afghanistan without further loss of life or injury. Mr. Timm was not afraid to take on additional tasks to improve life support and ensure essential services remained viable for the last DoD facilities within Afghanistan to the very end. After having served in Bagram, then the Resolute Support Headquarters Compound, and finally Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), Mike used his expertise to support DoD efforts in numerous ways as a mechanical engineer – he maintained prime power, water, and wastewater facilities and conducted field expedient engineer techniques to restore essential ground vehicles to support the withdrawal of forces and personnel from the country.

“On 16 August 2021 Mike noticed that the construction crews who were making improvements to Taxiway H, with linked Camp Alvarado Ramp 10 to the rest of the airport, had abandoned their equipment on the taxiway. A large tracked excavator, four generator light sets, and associated equipment blocked the taxiway and the West entrance to Ramp 10 with caused significant logistical problems for C-17s to enter Ramp 10 and gain access to the active runway. Well outside the scope of his duties, Mike formulated a plan to clear the taxiway. He started the excavator with a flathead screwdriver and dragged the generator light sets out of the way with a ratchet strap. He then utilized the excavator to remove concrete blocks which were bolted atop holes on the taxiway meant for taxiway lighting, which if not removed would have caused damage to any aircraft that taxied over it, Mike enabled the unimpeded movement of C-17s onto the ramp and down Taxiway H to the departure end of the runway, resulting in the successful retrograde of over 100,000 Afghan Refugees and the entirety of Coalition Forces prior to the 31 August deadline.

“Many of the support vehicles were rendered inoperable in the days following the collapse of the Afghan government, including a water truck necessary for cementing ammunition that could not be retrograded for theater, and an incredibly important 1,000 gallon capacity fuel truck that would be necessary to refuel the two power plants on Camp Alvarado and two Counter-Rocket Assisted Munitions (CRAM) systems. Mike leveraged his technical skills and exchanged parts from a truck similar to the fuel truck, rewiring it and making it usable with the help of a now-infamous flathead screwdriver. Over the two weeks that HKIA was under threat of direct attack and US and Coalition forces were working to evacuate American Citizens, Coalition forces, and Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), Mike used the fuel truck to refuel two power plants and two CRAM systems more than 15 times, keeping power, water and sewage systems working for more than 2,000 US personnel, and ensuring that the CRAM systems were able to operate without fail. On the final day of US and Coalition Forces withdrawal, CRAM successfully shot down a Rocket-Assisted Munition that otherwise would have landed on HKIA potentially injuring or Killing DoD service members during this extremely high-risk period.

“On 26 August 2021, Mike refueled the main Camp Alvarado power plant when ISIS initiated the deadliest attack on US forces in Afghanistan since 2011. Mike bravely put the well-being of others before himself and accepted the task of repairing the water treatment plant located 200 meters from the North Gate. After arriving on the scene at approximately 2200 hours, Mike donned rubber boots and waded into the unlit and flooded basement of the plant. He masterfully assessed the situation and devised a plan to drain the water and restore power, activating the sump pumps which drained the basement, and dried out the high-voltage breaker boxes and lines which crisscrossed the basement floor. He improvised and installed a device on a high-pressure raw water line and replaced a breaker with tools and parts left in a tool shed by contractors who had disappeared in the chaos at the airport. Through the nearby explosions of coalition airstrikes, Mike unrelentingly continued to solve problems in the plant, demonstrating exceptional bravery and calm under pressure. After three hours Mike restored the water treatment plant to nearly full operational capacity, remedying a dire situation at the hospital and restoring clean water for thousands of Afghan Refugees and Coalition Forces inhabiting HKIA.

“Mr. Timm not only enabled Task Force Talon but also supported the 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division on Camp Alvarado deployed in support of the security operation to hold Hamid Karzai International Airport to allow the safe evacuation of thousands of DoD forces, American Citizens, and at-risk Afghans. He went well beyond his scope of duties to support the entirety of HKIA in a chaotic, stressful, and extremely high-risk period of time during the withdrawal of personnel from Afghanistan.”

Lt. Col. Richard Childers, Commander of the Walla Walla District Corps of Engineers, officiated the ceremony and presented the award to Timm.

Those who would like to view the ceremony can watch on the Walla Walla USACE YouTube page. 




Release no. 21-069