2021 (press release)
THE CREWS OF SHADOW 77 & 78
As outlined in the United States Air Force nomination, the crews distinguished themselves in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel when in August 2021 they alert launched from Al Dhafra Air Force Base, United Arab Emirates, for a Close Air Support mission to protect the 2,000 Americans evacuating the embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The crews skillfully maintained visual custody of all American personnel enroute to Hamid Karzai International Airport and provided full-motion video in real-time to the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff as they watched the evacuation transpire. Overall, the crews of Shadow 77 and 78 flew the longest unaugmented AC-130J flight to date and their efforts to safeguard the embassy evacuation directly resulted in the successful rescue of 2,000 American diplomats with zero casualties.
2020 (press release)
THE CREW OF HAWG 53 FLIGHT
As outlined in the United States Air Force nomination, the crew of Hawg 53 were deployed from their home station of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, as a two-ship formation of A-10Cs, flying out of the 455th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 451st Air Expeditionary Group, Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. On January 5, 2020, Lieutenant Colonel Bier and Lieutenant Colonel Nordhagen were tasked to support a troops in contact situation where the Afghan Combat Outpost was under heavy attack from Taliban forces. As the only airborne response available in Afghanistan, Hawg 53 battled significant weather, mountainous terrain, dislocated controllers, and a determined enemy to halt the attack and save the outpost from being overrun, ultimately saving the lives of 30 Afghan soldiers. The professional ability and outstanding aerial accomplishments of the crew of Hawg 53 reflect great credit upon themselves and the United States Air Force.