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NEWS | Oct. 14, 2023

Airmen recognized for Afghanistan evacuation

By Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle 167th Airlift Wing

Twenty-seven Airmen assigned to the 167th Operations Group were recognized for their actions while supporting Operation Allies Refuge (OAR), the August 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan, during a ceremony at Shepherd Field, Martinsburg, West Virginia, Oct. 14, 2023.

More than 120,000 Afghan citizens, allied partners and U.S. citizens, were evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport during the operation, the largest noncombatant air evacuation in U.S. history.

“These aircrew members volunteered to take short notice missions, many taking leave from their civilian jobs, and were faced with some of the most challenging missions of their lives,” said Col. Christopher Sigler, 167th Operations Group commander.

Thirteen Airmen made up two crews that were presented with Air Medals with C devices which denote combat conditions, and Afghanistan Campaign Medals. The Air Medal is presented for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight.

Aircraft commander Lt. Col. Alex Hanna led one of the first OAR missions into Kabul. He and his crew were tasked with delivering 250 Marines as part of a security contingent to the unsecured airfield. With a vehicle on the runway, they aborted their first attempt to land, performed a go-around amid hostile fire and landed on their second attempt as crowds overran the airfield. After the Marines exited the aircraft Hanna his crew loaded and evacuated 289 people and passed on valuable information regarding the airfield environment to other inbound aircrews.

Aircraft commander Maj. Samuel Harrison and his crew made three trips into the chaotic Kabul airport.  Under hostile fire, his crew delivered food and water and airlifted more than 1,100 people to safety, caring for pregnant, sick and elderly passengers along the way. Harrison conducted an unscheduled nighttime aerial refueling during one mission enroute from Kabul to Qatar, ensuring they could remain airborne with their heavy load while waiting hours for clearance to land.

Additionally, 14 other Airmen on two other aircrews were presented with Air and Space Commendation Medals during the ceremony. These crews conducted numerous aeromedical evacuation missions, transporting more than 450 evacuees to various safe locations.

“The selfless service and heroic actions of these aircrew members deeply impacted the lives of the evacuees they were able to airlift to safety.” said Sigler.

Air Medal recipients included Lt. Col. Alexander Hanna, Maj. Patrick Barnes, Capt. Taylor Loving, Capt. Donald Tipton, Senior Master Sgt. Joeseph Windle, Master Sgt. Gregory Barham, Senior Airman Courtney Shambaugh, Senior Airman Samuel Bartolomeo, Maj. Sam Harrison, Maj. Cabell Doyle, Capt. Kyle Koppenhaver, Tech. Sgt. Tim Larsen and Staff Sgt. Tristan Rowland.

Air and Space Commendation Medal recipients included Capt. Gavin Miller, Maj. Will Giles, Capt. Pete Evans, Capt. Trevor Whittington, Chief Master Sgt. Dave Martens, Staff Sgt. Charles Adams, Airman 1st Class Nate Catrow, Maj. Kyle Wagner, Maj. Casey Boley, Maj. David Groom, Master Sgt. Jon LaFollette, Tech. Sgt. James Doane, Tech. Sgt. Isaiah Redman and Senior Airman Ben Kelsey.


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