Archive for December 5, 2022

SHAKO (December 5, 2022)

THEY KEPT ‘EM FLYING DURING FRAUGHT EVACUATION

Fifty-one members of the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, for their actions in Operation Allies Refuge — the 2021 airlift of thousands of civilians from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Distinguished Flying Crosses are lined up prior to an award ceremony at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, where 51 Airmen received medals for heroism during the 17-day evacuation of tens of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III) Click on photo to enlarge image.

The November 21, 2022 ceremony was the largest of its kind in decades. Among the honorees,  Captain Rhea McFarland, a 14th Airlift Squadron C-17 cargo plane pilot, and Captain Leslie Green, a 375th Air Expeditionary Squadron flight nurse, became the first female African Americans to be awarded the DFC in the 96-year history of the award, according to officials of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society.

During Operation Allies Refuge — the largest non-combatant evacuation in American history — each of the 51 Airmen flew into a dangerous environment to evacuate tens of thousands of refugees in just 17 days.

The DFC recipients included pilots, loadmasters, flying crew chiefs, and a flight nurse, according to the Air Force. Most of the 51 recipients were aircrew from the 437th Airlift Wing, who participated in the final U.S. flights in and out of Afghanistan on August 30, 2021. As they entered the airspace surrounding Hamid Karzai International Airport, air crews faced air defense artillery, flares, and heavy machine gun fire, as well as reports of rooftop snipers in the area.

Despite the dangerous conditions, crews successfully landed their aircraft without runway lighting and minimized time on the ground while loading passengers. A compromised airfield meant a risky departure, but they took off in formation with all remaining U.S. military forces accounted for and safely on board, the Air Force said.

Distinguished Flying Cross recipients pose for a photo in front of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft after receiving their medals. With a total of 51 recipients, the Nov. DFC ceremony was the largest of its kind in decades. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III). Click on the photo to enlarge image.

During the ceremony, General Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command, also presented DFCs to a 315th Air Wing crew for successfully delivering a baby while in flight. With limited medical equipment and only one trained medic on board, the team delivered the baby and cared for the mother and child while also evacuating 456 other vulnerable Afghans.

The DFC, authorized by congress on July 2, 1926, is the fourth highest award for extraordinary achievement, after the Silver Star Medal and before the Bronze Star Medal. It is also the highest award for heroism while participating in aerial flight.

A list of the 51 airmen receiving the DFC at the November 21 ceremony Joint Base Charleston can be found here.

The awards presented by Minihan are among 96 DFCs and 12 Bronze Stars approved in a September awards board held by U.S. Air Forces Central Command for actions during the chaotic evacuation of non-combatants as Kabul fell to the Taliban last summer. Thirteen American service members — 11 Marines, one Navy ((medical) Corpsman and one Soldier — were killed by a suicide bomber at the airport’s Abbey Gate. Forty-five others were injured and 170 Afghans died in the blast as well.

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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress, or parade, uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York in the photo.

December 5, 2022 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment


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