A Superior native and South Range soldier -- hanging up his Army boots after 32 years -- was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the U.S. Army Reserves.

Col. Patrick Gallagher, a senior project manager for Kraus-Anderson in Duluth, was presented the award by Brigadier Gen. Charles Martin during a ceremony at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis. Gallagher credits his successful military career to a team effort.

Gallagher earned the honor as he retired after 23 years in the National Guard and another nine years in U.S. Army Reserve.

He was honored for distinguished service that included deployment to Nicaragua, twice to Afghanistan, and a tour in Iraq.

A lieutenant colonel in 2006-2007, Gallagher earned a Bronze Star when he served as operations officer and chief of construction for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During that first tour, he was responsible for all of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, managing more than 250 construction projects and an annual construction budget of close to $2 billion.

He served a year-long deployment again in 2009 and 2010, serving as chief of staff with the 372nd Engineer Brigade, with responsibilities just shy of those of commanding Gen. Stanley McCrystal, according to a story published three years ago in the Superior Telegram.

The brigade of three engineer battalions and 2,500 soldiers, a number that was growing under the surge, was responsible for mentoring the Afghan National Army in governance, security and quality of life for Afghanistan's people. The soldiers were also responsible for building military camps, facilities to provide construction plans and design, bridge and road design, and route clearance to remove roadside bombs.

Working 14- to 16-hour days, Gallagher was responsible for every decision and function of the missions under "Task Force Timberwolf" in eastern Afghanistan.

During the ceremony at Fort Snelling, Gallagher presented a Certificate of Appreciation to his employer, which had supported him and his family through tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After all, he said, his success in the U.S. Army Reserve would have been impossible without the support people in the Kraus-Anderson office in Duluth provided.

Gallagher said not having the worries a lot of soldiers have about their civilian job allowed him to concentrate on the mission at hand when he was serving in a war zone.

"It's huge for peace of mind," the retired colonel said. "I had individual employees in the Kraus-Anderson office in Duluth who were available to help my wife if she needed anything from cars not starting to basically anything, and knowing that support network is there allowed me to stay focused."

His military service and leadership experience have made him a better employee for Kraus-Anderson, giving him confidence and experience he now uses in his civilian job, he said.

During his second tour in Afghanistan, Gallagher said there were other soldiers who were not as lucky as the economy back home hit bottom.

"I had a lot of fellow soldiers that had lost their jobs or had been very concerned about pay cuts and things like that when they got back," Gallagher said.

Gallagher started his military career in high school by enlisting in the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a private. He later attended Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Ga. After 23 years in the National Guard, serving a stint as a company commander in the late 1980s for the 724th Engineer Battalion Headquarters when it was in Superior, and obtaining the rank of lieutenant colonel, he transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve.

Gallagher served in numerous positions, working his way up in the Army to his the rank of colonel.

His 2001-2002 command of Joint Task Force Chontales in Nicaragua, which included Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines from the National Guard, Reserves and active duty, focused on improving interoperability in a humanitarian mission. The task force built schools, clinics and roads as well as providing medical and veterinary services in support of the Nicaraguan government. The mission built U.S. relationships with the Nicaraguan military and local populace.

He conducted a short tour in Iraq during this deployment to bring "lessons learned" in Iraq back to Afghanistan to improve operations and safety of the Afghanistan command.

From headquarters in Sharana, Afghanistan, Gallagher's brigade controlled engineer forces in the east, north and area at the capital, Kabul.

During that mission in 2009-2010, 175,000 kilometers of routes were patrolled, 787 improvised explosive devices were found, and more than 400 construction projects were completed to provide housing, airfields, solid waste complex, fuel tank system, transfer/storage fuel facility, prime power electric grid, trauma center, roads, bridges and communications networks. In addition, they trained training Afghan military and civilians in construction, mine clearing, government development, building, and maintaining roads and bridges.

Gallagher credits NATO, International Security and Afghanistan forces, in addition to family, his employers and citizens for 32 years of success.

"I owe my military accomplishments to God and the members of that combined team," Gallagher said. "For the honor to serve this great nation and the support of that team, I am deeply grateful. I now leave it to the next generation to carry on this tradition of service."