PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Sergeant 1st Class Abigail Keller, an operations noncommissioned-officer-in-charge with 1st Space Company, 1st Space Battalion, was awarded the Bronze Star Mar. 12, for her exceptionally meritorious service in combat zone with exposure to risk to hostile action in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Inherent Resolve, 2019-2020.
Keller and her fellow space Soldiers endured a three-hour ballistic missile attack at al-Asad airbase in Iraq on Jan. 8, 2020. Keller, the detachment NCO, organized and moved her Soldiers to safety displaying a cool, calm, and collected demeanor during the night’s attack.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Keller said of receiving the medal. “I never expected to get this in my career. It’s an honor, but I didn’t earn this award alone. This award really belongs to all of Detachment 1 (Keller’s unit while deployed in Iraq).”
Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commander U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command, pinned the award on Keller, and Col. Donald K. Brooks, commander, 1st Space Brigade, addressed the attendees.
“This is a truly special day,” Brooks said to the crowd. “A long-overdue day. This is a well-deserved and earned award.”
It’s rare for Soldiers with space-centric military operational specialties (MOS) to get Bronze Stars, much less female ones, said Keller. Due to the nature of the space domain, many of them remain out of harm’s way for the majority of their careers, and due to the lack of women in space units, the chances of a female in USASMDC getting a Bronze Star are extremely slim.
When asked what Keller thought of receiving the Bronze Star during Women’s History Month, she downplayed it, not talking herself up.
“I just happened to be the detachment sergeant there at the time, and I just so happen to be a woman,” Keller said. “It’s just coincidence I guess.”
Keller also touched on being a female in a male-dominated MOS.
“There’s definitely been long stretches of time where I have been the only female in my space units, which can be a little bit isolating,” Keller said. “But I have been fortunate to have a lot of really good male peers and seniors around me that I didn’t necessarily feel alone. Space has been really good to me in that way.”
Keller, originally from upstate New York, has been in USASMDC her entire 14-year career with duty stations at Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Buckner, Japan; Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado and Fort Carson, Colorado.