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Combat Art Articles

EXPERIENCE: Combat-Proven Readiness for 75 Years ... Transforming the Future!

  • Published

Distinguished Flying Cross painting


Artist: 2nd Lt. Kat Justen
Medium: 16"x20" oil on panel
Date: 2023

On Aug. 15, 2021, a C-17 Globemaster III piloted by Lt. Col. Dominic Calderon and 1st Lt. Kyle Anderson, departed Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, with 153 U.S. citizens, allied partners, and vulnerable Afghans onboard. The Total Force crew, including both Active Duty and Reserve Airmen, reacted to chaotic circumstances on the ground by loading fleeing civilians and transporting them to safety. As a result of the selfless actions of the crew, on April 1, 2022, the four Reserve Airmen received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). The DFC is awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement while flying. Maj. Gen. Matthew Burger, t hen-Deputy Commander Air Force Reserve Command, attested to the crew’s achievement while issuing the DFC. Burger noted, “we only have 45 [Reservists] right now who have received this award.” The crew expressed humility when receiving their recognition. Lt. Col.  Calderon acknowledged the honor of the award, linking it to, “some of the nation’s greatest aviators.”  Master Sgt. Foster upheld that linkage by asserting that the “knowledge and breadth of experience onboard” determined success on that fateful evening. Award of the DFC stands as a testament to the readiness and resiliency of this crew that performed to the highest standard in an acutely challenging moment. This level of commitment and readily available expertise permeated the Air Force Reserve contribution to Operation ALLIES REFUGE and Operation ALLIES WELCOME.


- Lt. Col. Dominic Calderon, Aircraft Commander, 301st Airlift Squadron – U.S. Air Force Reserve

- 1st Lt. Kyle Anderson, Mission Pilot, 301st Airlift Squadron – U.S. Air Force Reserve

- Master Sgt. Silva Foster, Loadmaster, 301st Airlift Squadron – U.S. Air Force Reserve

- Senior Airman Michael Geller, Loadmaster, 517th Airlift Squadron – U.S. Air Force Reserve

- Staff Sgt. Dennis Gonzales-Furman, Flying Crew Chief, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron – U.S. Air Force