TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. –
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Corey Martin, 18th Air Force commander, recognized mobility Airmen for their actions during Operation Allies Refuge with the Distinguished Flying Cross at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 9, 2022.
A total of 27 Airmen from two Travis-led missions received the award for their acts of heroism and extraordinary achievements while participating in aerial flight. Three of these decorated Airmen were not in attendance.
“The world witnessed history during that airlift, borne on the shoulders of mobility heroes,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander. “This recognition is long overdue for what our heroes did during those historic 17 days.”
MOOSE 98’s Critical Care Air Transport Team is the first CCATT to receive the DFC.
Additionally, nineteen of the recipients were awarded the “C” device for exceptionally meritorious service or achievement under combat conditions.
“You were asked to bring your expertise and your grit to a problem set that you had not experienced before and you did not disappoint,” Martin said. “Because of your individual aircrafts collectively, over a hundred thousand lives were changed positively.”
The DFC recipients represented nineteen different units and were comprised of two separate aerial missions: REACH 651 and MOOSE 98.
The REACH 651 crew conducted a mission to rescue evacuees from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 22, 2021, during increased threats of suicide bombings.
To mitigate possible threats or hijacking attempts, crew members searched every evacuee prior to boarding and quickly directed them to their seats.
“Going into the mission, it was something that I never experienced,” said Staff Sgt. E-Quantay Mason, Phoenix Raven team lead with REACH 651. “You can train for a lot of things but once you get put in that position, it fluctuates.”
During the flight, the crew provided lifesaving actions to a suddenly ill passenger. Additionally, crew members carefully deescalated a potentially dangerous situation and ensured the safety of all service members and evacuees on board.
The flight safely evacuated more than 450 personnel to Al Udeid AB.
“I am extremely proud of my crew for their tireless efforts throughout the mission to ensure the flight deck was secure,” said Maj. Drew Dela Cruz, C-17 pilot and REACH 651 aircraft commander. “The extremely good judgement they used and their calculated actions during chaos was crucial.”
The crew of MOOSE 98 conducted a critical care aeromedical evacuation mission from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 26, 2021, in response to a suicide bombing near the airfield.
MOOSE 98 was the first aircraft to land after the bombing. The crew provided the first critical care air transport team on the ground after the attack and aeromedical evacuation.
“I remember it felt like a movie. Like when you see those war movies with the litter patients coming on and the red lights. There were tracers, flares, fires and gunshots going off,” said Senior Airman Alexis Sanchez, C-17 loadmaster with MOOSE 98. “I remember being like, ‘Is this real?’”
The flight transported the most severely wounded personnel to receive immediate care. The wounded consisted of service members, foreign nationals and children, many of whom were critically injured. Operating under extreme circumstances, supply deficiencies, threat of fire and unstable ground security, the crew managed to load numerous patients onto the aircraft.
After loading severely injured patients, walking wounded patients continued to arrive at the aircraft for treatment with no warning. The crew triaged, treated and stabilized patients to allow for a safe departure. They continued to provide life-saving care during the flight to Ramstein AB.
“Although I was told what to expect, it was very shocking to see very young Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers walk on the plane with traumatic injuries, but my crew responded fast and effectively,” said Maj. Katelyn Dunahoe, flight nurse with MOOSE 98. “The braveness and selflessness they all displayed is indescribable.”
The efforts of MOOSE 98 culminated in the single largest aeromedical evacuation airlift in Kabul Coalition Hospital’s history.
Despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, MOOSE 98 successfully delivered all patients to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, alive.
“When I think of the names of the other people that have gotten [the DFC], Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, that’s wild,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Raucci, flying crew chief with MOOSE 98. “It’s a huge honor.”
Rep. John Garamendi also reflected on the importance of this milestone and expressed his thanks for the execution of rapid global mobility by Travis Airmen. He honored each of the recipients with an official record of Congressional proceedings. The Congressional Record summarizes the day's floor and committee activities as well as includes proclamations and tributes in recognition of notable events, dates, and persons.
“The valor and heroism displayed by the men and women of Travis were extraordinary and worthy of recognition,” Garamendi said. “Simply put, Travis Air [Force] Base is the very best our nation has to offer.”
The medals presented by Martin on Dec. 9 are among 96 DFC medals approved in a September awards board held by U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
Martin presented the DFC to the following Airmen:
MOOSE 98 crew:
- Lt. Col. Raul R. Montiague
- Lt. Col. William A. Street
- Maj. Katelyn E. Dunahoe
- Maj. Katie B. Lunning
- Maj. Pete N. Traylor
- Maj. Dominick A. Vitale
- Capt. Cody M. Apfel
- Capt. Jedd E. Dillman
- Capt. David L. Stuppy
- Capt. Spencer D. Yacos
- Master Sgt. Matthew A. Newman
- Tech. Sgt. Matthew D. Keefer
- Tech Sgt. Michael A. Raucci
- Staff Sgt. Idaliz Alicea
- Staff Sgt. Katherine Rosa Orellana
- Staff Sgt. Courtney Smith
- Senior Airman Mario Hernandez
- Senior Airman Deniece A. Lobban
- Senior Airman Alexis C. Sanchez
REACH 651 crew:
- Maj. Alexander A. Arcidiacono
- Maj. Drew P. Dela Cruz
- 1st Lt. Ryan S. Corvin
- Staff Sgt. Brandon S. Jensen
- Staff Sgt. E-Quantay L. Mason
- Senior Airman Kimberly S. Heiser
- Senior Airman Matthew S. Williams
- Airman 1st Class Jeremy Eda