Joint Base Charleston to present 36 Distinguished Flying Crosses to airmen
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Three dozen airmen are set to receive the U.S. Air Force’s highest award for heroism while participating in aerial flight at a Monday morning ceremony.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan will present the award to 51 men and women, the highest number ever presented at a single ceremony in decades.
Col. David Taylor, the Vice Commander of the 437th Airlift Wing, said the pilots are being recognized for their actions during Operation Allies Refuge, which was the evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021, and the largest non-combatant evacuation operation in American history. He said there are so many recipients because of the number of missions the aircrews completed while evacuating Afghanistan.
For example, during one of the missions, a reserve crew had over 800 refugees on board, and during the flight, a baby was delivered on board, he said. Also, he said five of the crews were the very last C-17s to depart Afghanistan, experiencing extremely risky flying.
It’s not only pilots being awarded at Monday’s ceremony. Taylor said aircraft maintainers and loadmasters will also receive the honor for their bravery.
“We’re extremely proud of our airmen. This is a group of reservists and active-duty airmen that really went above and beyond what our nation asked them to do,” Taylor said. “And it is because of their expertise that allowed this mission to be successful. And I’m looking forward to pinning those metals are their chest.”
Among the group of recipients is Capt. Rhea McFarland, a pilot and training officer who will be the first African American female to receive a Distinguished Flying Cross. During Operations Allies Refuge, McFarland ensured a successful evacuation of refugees and as one of the last aircraft to depart Kabul, supported the withdrawal of military personnel, the base said.
Taylor said they flew the recipients into Charleston, where they were stationed at the time of the mission, to receive their awards.
Base officials said they will be posting updates of the ceremony online on social media including the Joint Base Charleston Facebook page.
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