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The Independence Bowl Foundation honors an outstanding American citizen or group each year with the Omar N. Bradley “Spirit of Independence Award,” and retired United States Air Force Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski has been selected as the 43rd recipient of the award.
“We are honored to present Lieutenant General James Kowalski with the 2019 Omar N. Bradley ‘Spirit of Independence’ Award,” said 2019 Independence Bowl Foundation Chairman Art Carmody IV. “Through his service in the United States Air Force and locally at Barksdale Air Force Base, General Kowalski has embodied everything the ‘Spirit of Independence Award’ represents.”
“People in Northwest Louisiana have strong patriotism and respect for service, so for the committee to choose me is a deeply moving honor,” noted Kowalski. “It’s also humbling to be added to a list that started with General Omar Bradley and recognizes so many exceptional civilian and military patriots.”
General Kowalski retired from the United States Air Force in September 2015. His most recent post was as the Deputy Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska – tasked with strategic deterrence and nuclear, space and cyberspace operations. Throughout his 35 years on active duty, his impact reached throughout the United States and the world.
An alumni of the University of Cincinnati’s ROTC program, General Kowalski held a variety of operations commands, including a bomb squadron, operations group, bomb wing, expeditionary wing, air control wing and an Air Force Major Command.
Prior to his post at USSTRATCOM, General Kowalski led the establishment of Air Force Global Strike Command, the Air Force’s first new Major Command in 37 years, subsequently serving as its first vice commander and then commander. His wartime experience includes command of the 405th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia – where he led a combined wing of B-1Bs, E-3s and KC-135s for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. His staff assignments include Air Combat Command, Headquarters U.S. Air Force and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Throughout his notable military career, General Kowalski earned a number of major awards and decorations. This list of distinguished honors includes the Bronze Star, Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal (Air Force), Defense Superior Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Medal.
General Kowalski held three different posts at local Barksdale Air Force Base. His first stop at Barksdale was from May 1999 through December 2000 as the Commander of the 2nd Operations Group. More recently, he was the Vice Commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command from August 2009 through January 2011 and the Commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command from January 2011 through October 2013.
General Omar N. Bradley was the first recipient of the “Spirit of Independence Award,” and presented it each year until his death, after which his name was added to the award.
Since the award’s inception, this honor has been bestowed upon outstanding American citizens, or organizations, which symbolize the spirit of freedom and independence on which our country was founded. Some past recipients include: John Wayne, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan, and recently, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Berlin Airlift Veterans, Veterans of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, retired Marine Corporal Jacob P. Schick and Brigadier General Jeannie M. Leavitt.
Kowalski will accept the 2019 Omar N. Bradley “Spirit of Independence Award” at halftime of the 2019 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl.