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HCC grad wins military honors

A 1995 Haywood Community College graduate has received seven awards for his distinguished assistance to the U.S. military in Afghanistan. 

Christopher “Shane” Smith is a graduate of HCC’s Fish and Wildlife Management Technology Program and recently returned from a four-month deployment, during which he used his expertise as a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reduce aviation hazards on coalitions airbases. This was his second service tour overseas. 

“Fish and wildlife have always been my passion. Little did I know that the hands-on nature of learning at HCC would serve me well, not knowing one day I would be catching alligators by hand,” he said.

The U.S. Air Force Central Command recognized Smith with the Civilian Employee of the Month, Civilian Employee of the Quarter, Civilian Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Civilian Medal and the NATO medal given to service in the Joint Operations Area in Afghanistan. He also received the Civilian Exemplary Achievement Medal granted to Air Force civilian employees who served for at least one year, resulting in profound Air Force-wide documented impact.”

In Afghanistan, Smith conducted hazard assessments and managed wildlife hazards by patrolling the airfields and dealing with multinational personnel to accomplish tasks. Previously, Smith helped assist in the recovery efforts from the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks.

A Hickory native, Smith served in the U.S. Army prior to arriving at HCC, and upon graduation he became the first HCC graduate to work for the USDA. Since then, he has helped numerous HCC graduates find employment at the department and serves on HCC’s Fish and Wildlife Program Advisory Committee. 

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