SALEM - U.S. Air Force Major General Jay Santee was honored by the French government during a ceremony at its embassy in Washington on July 27.
Santee is a 1977 Salem High School graduate and a 1981 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
In his Air Force career he's held command duties at the squadron, group and wing levels and centered on space activities.
He is beginning duties Sept. 17 at Ft. Belvoir as the deputy director for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency after serving in the Pentagon.
He served successively as commander of the 13th Space Warning Squadron, the 614th Space Operations Group and the 21st Space Wing.
He was also director of the 14th Air Force Air and Space Operations Center, where he was responsible for the planning and operations of various U.S. space assets.
It was during service in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in charge of policy that he has been playing a major role in the bilateral space cooperation between the United States and France.
As a member of the lead committee on the Space Cooperation Forum established between the French Strategic Affairs Directorate and the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Santee often supported the French positions and always contributed to finding relevant solutions by taking into account France's interests.
His role was decisive particularly in the development of a concept of operations related to Space Situational Awareness between the French Ministry of Defense and the Pentagon.
By offering political-military insight needed for understanding American space interests, Santee, more generally, is credited with establishing a trusting relationship with his French counterparts.
In recognition of his contribution to the enhancement of the French-American bilateral space cooperation, the President of the French Republic has awarded him the insignia of Knight of the Legion of Honor Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur.
Following the French Revolution that had abolished all French honorary orders, the first French Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte, created the Legion of Honor in 1802 to recognize outstanding services rendered to France, on the basis of personal merits.
The award was intended to be distinct, illustrious, and an honor that would fire people's imagination, spur soldiers to valor and be held in high esteem in other countries.
It has been one of the most coveted distinctions in the world.
Among its American recipients are President Reagan, Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf.
With the President of the Republic as its grand master who decides all nominations, it is conferred on individuals from all walks of life, the military, magistrates, administrators and civil servants, as well as men and women of distinguished achievements in the arts, education, agriculture, trade and industry.
It includes three ranks including Knight, Officer and Commander and two dignities - Grand Officer and Grand Cross.
Santee has logged over 1,800 flight hours as a navigator on the F-111 and served in Desert Storm in the plane.
Larry Shields can be reached at email@example.com