Andy native earns Bronze Star

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 8, 2013

Andalusia native and Air Force Lt. Col. Jimmy Mott has earned the Bronze Star from the United Sates military, the fourth-highest individual award that is given out.

Mott, with his sons, Ethan and Eli.

Mott, with his sons, Ethan and Eli.

Mott’s mother, Shela Padgett, said she is very proud of her son – but neither she nor his other family members know exactly why he received the coveted medal.

“Jimmy always tells me, ‘Mother, we have two kinds of missions: Those that we can’t talk about, and those that never happened.’” Padgett said.

But Pagdett has gotten used to being in the dark about the details of her son’s illustrious career in the military.

“I have no idea what he does, exactly,” Padgett said. “He is the commander of the 16th SOS in Clovis, New Mexico. He’s been deployed to Afghanistan and Pakistan eight times.”

And it was during Mott’s last deployment in Afghanistan, a five-month tour that began in January of this year and lasted through June, that the circumstances that led to his earning the Bronze Star unfolded – but that is almost all that is known.

When asked if her son had ever been stationed in Iraq, Padgett’s answer painted a clear picture of the importance of the secrecy of her son’s missions.

“I don’t know,” she said simply.

Mott, an Andalusia native, has made a career out of special operations in the United States Air Force. He graduated as valedictorian from Andalusia High School in 1990, and only weeks later enrolled in the Air Force Academy.

Padgett said her son was poised for a stateside assignment, possibly in Alaska, but was reassigned because of his stepfather’s health issues.

“His father was dying of cancer, and they gave him a bereavement assignment and moved him to Eglin (Air Force Base in Florida), and that’s where he got into the special opps,” Padgett said.  “He stayed there for almost 10 years.”

Since that time, Mott has gone on to serve his country all over the world through special operations assignments, both known and unknown. His most recent deployment earned him the Bronze Star – the fourth highest individual award in the United States military.

Although the details are unclear, the official award letter from the U.S. Air Force gives clues into Mott’s undoubtedly courageous actions in Afghanistan.

“Lt. Col. James V. Mott distinguished himself by meritorious achievement as Commander, lst Expeditionary Special Operations Group, lst Expeditionary Special Operations Wing, Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan, while engaged in ground combat against an enemy of the United States,” the letter reads. “During this period, Col. Mott was a key commander and leader in the singular special operations air component, consolidating eight combat squadrons from three groups under a single command, supporting all aviation aspects for three disparate special operations ground task forces.”

As a group commander, Mott led 443 airmen and 44 contractors through 2,017 successful combat missions. According to Air Force records, combined, the missions resulted in the demise of 208 enemy combatants; the killing or capturing of 43 high-value targets; 2.3 million leaflets dropped on 48 targets; 958,000 pounds of critical supplies airdropped to 29 remote forward operating bases; and l7.4 million pounds of critical cargo and over 30,676 passengers moved.

“The exemplary leadership, personal endeavor, and devotion to duty displayed by Col. Mott in this responsible position reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force,” the official letter continued.
Padgett said that while the Air Force has certainly acknowledged her son’s commitment and bravery, Mott himself has remained as modest as ever.

“He’s very, very modest,” she said. “He didn’t even tell me about (winning the Bronze Star). I saw it in the news. I said, ‘Jimmy. Were you awarded the Bronze Star?’ He said, ‘Yes. I was going to tell you about it.’”

Padgett said her son is now back on post at Cannon Air Force Base, and she has plans to visit him at Christmas, along with his wife, Lydia Cuebas, and the couple’s two children, eight-year-old Ethan and five-year-old Eli.

She said having her only child working in such dangerous situations is terrifying for her, adding days like Monday’s Veterans Day holiday are constant reminders of the importance of what he does.

“Am I scared? Yes,” she said. “To me, Memorial Day and Veterans Day is every day.”

Padgett, an Andalusia resident, said she is also thankful for the people in her community who have shown her and her son love and support over the years.

“One of the nicest things that ever happened to me happened here,” she said. “Jimmy loves Dean’s Cake House and loves for me to send it to him. I was there and had to walk out to my car. When I went to pay the lady said there was no charge. She said the lady in front of me in line had paid and wanted to remain anonymous.”

Padgett said she is also constantly receiving requests from locals for her to thank her son for his service.

“Everyone always tells me to thank him,” she said. “He always says the same thing: ‘It’s my honor.’”

Mott is also he son of Jimmy Mott and the late Jerry Padgett. He is so-in-law to John and Lydia Huckabee.