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315th wins Aircrew Excellence Award

C-17 Globemaster III

A C-17 Globemaster III sits on the flightline at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. (U.S. Air Force file photo)

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The skillful response and handling of an in-flight crisis by a 315th Airlift Wing crew leads to a national level award. 

On Aug. 17, 2018, an all Reserve Charleston-based C-17 crew, carrying medical evacuation patients, experienced a cabin pressure malfunction then, successfully completed their mission, despite poor weather conditions and emergency oxygen system malfunctions, earning the 2018 4th Air Force Aircrew Excellence Award. 

“Our Air Force Reserve C-17 crews fly training and operational missions locally and around the globe every day,” said Col. Stephen Lanier, 315th Operations Group commander. “Capt. Lientz's crew, including pilots, loadmasters, aeromedical evacuation and maintenance specialists, is just one example of the amazing professionalism, skill, and coordination that our Air Force Reserve personnel exhibit daily as they carry out these important missions. "  

“Their focus and dedication ensures mission success even when the unexpected happens. Kudos to the crew and support personnel on the ground at McGhee Tyson for a job very well done,” Lanier said.

The following details were summarized from the award submission:

The flight departed Joint Base Andrews, Md. airlifting seven patients to Kelly Field, San Antonio. Of these patients, two were post-surgical combat casualties; one was a gunshot wound victim and the other received shrapnel injuries to the eye and face. Upon reaching 34,000 feet, the aircraft indicated low cabin pressure. The crew immediately donned oxygen, and simultaneously coordinated an emergency descent with air traffic control. The crew expertly began the emergency loss of pressurization checklist, and coordinated for the aircraft to level off at 10,000 feet.    

Master Sgt. Eric Zilaitis and Tech. Sgt. Paul Sizemore, loadmasters from the 317th Airlift Squadron, manually deployed passenger oxygen masks. Discovering many of the masks were not operational, both men worked to place the patients and passengers on emergency oxygen. 

The mission pilots (Aircraft Commander Capt. Dustin Lientz, Copilots Maj. Steven Stampley, Capt. Richard Tyner and 1st Lt. Austin Gause) from the 317th Airlift Squadron, worked with the aeromedical evacuation medical crew director to find a suitable location to divert the aircraft. Approaching thunderstorms and low ceilings in the southeast added another level of complexity in choosing a suitable divert airfield. 

The aircrew decided to divert the aircraft to McGhee Tyson Airport, Tenn., approximately 100 miles ahead. Of the airfields within the immediate area, Knoxville, was uniquely positioned with the highest level of medical care facilities.    

The crew successfully landed the aircraft with no further incidents in Tenn. A private medevac flight was coordinated to take the highest need patients to their final destination and a C-130 was directed to McGhee Tyson to pick up the remaining patients. Senior Airman Matthew Vanderbosch, from the 315th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and an aeromedical evacuation team from the 934th Airlift Wing at Minneapolis, Minn. were also part of the crew who received the award.

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