SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE –
Air Mobility Command announced today commanders will present 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 12 Bronze Star Medals, and one Gallant Unit Citation to mobility Airmen who supported Operation Allies Refuge.
Of the 96 DFCs, seven will be awarded with the “V” device for valor, recognizing heroism beyond what is normally expected while engaged in direct combat conditions. An additional 74 DFCs will be awarded with the “C” device for combat. Two of the 12 BSMs will be awarded with the “V” device. The 621st Contingency Response Group will receive the prestigious Gallant Unit Citation for the actions its Airmen took to rapidly repair and run airfield operations at Hamid Karzai International Airport while surrounded by hostile forces, enabling success of the operation.
“The world witnessed history during that airlift, borne on the shoulders of mobility heroes,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, commander of Air Mobility Command. “This recognition is long overdue for what our heroes did during those historic 17 days.”
The DFCs and BSMs were among 350 additional individual awards approved for actions in support of OAR. The decorations were recently finalized following a September awards board held by Air Forces Central Command that considered the elevated level of awards for the heroic actions of hundreds of Airmen who participated in the largest noncombatant air evacuation operation in U.S. history.
“A mix of MAF and OAR experts led to award submissions being addressed thoroughly and with the mindset of recognizing actions in a way that will endure while preserving reverence for our most hallowed medals. Consequently, some submissions were upgraded or downgraded to reflect the distinct contribution of the Airman or team,” said Brig. Gen. Gerald Donohue, AMC’s deputy director of Strategy, Plans, Requirements and Programs, who served as the award board president. Donohue previously served as the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing commander at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, during OAR, through which most evacuees were processed on the way to their final destinations. “It’s important to note that we considered the contributions of crews as teams, and in the end, there was no disparity in award determinations among members of the same crews.”
A lapse in authorities tied to the end of the operation in September 2021 led to an administrative delay in reviewing higher-level award submissions. AMC worked closely with AFCENT and the Department of the Air Force to resolve the problem, resulting in not only the September awards board, but also new authorities that allow Air Mobility Command to convene its own boards to award the same caliber of decorations moving forward.
“Make no mistake, we should have done this last year immediately after the operation, and I recognize our Airmen’s frustration with the process,” Minihan said. “We’re making that right, and we’ve worked with our partners across the Air Force to ensure AMC is able to swiftly and effectively recognize our mobility warriors as they deliver warfighting excellence across every combatant command worldwide.”
The DFCs, BSMs, and GUC are scheduled to be awarded across recipients’ units in the coming weeks.
“This is about taking care of our Airmen, and there is still more to be done,” Minihan added.
Minihan will present the first DFCs and BSMs during a scheduled base visit at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in November.
To date, commanders have approved more than 4,500 medals for Mobility Air Forces Airmen who supported the operation.