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446th Airlift Wing Hosts Distinguished Flying Cross Ceremony

  • Published
  • By Rachel Herrod
  • 446th Airlift Wing

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Durham, commander of Fourth Air Force, recognized six Reserve Citizen Airmen with the Distinguished Flying Cross at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Oct. 15, 2023.

Surrounded by friends, family, and fellow Airmen, the aircrew members received the Distinguished Flying Cross with “C” device for their extraordinary aerial achievements during Operation Allies Refuge.

Operation Allies Refuge was the largest non-combatant evacuation in American history, resulting in the safe evacuation of 124,334 individuals from Afghanistan. 

Durham presented the DFC to the following Reserve Citizen Airmen:
Maj. Brandon Dubuisson
Maj. Amit Patel 
Capt. Mitchell Willaims 
2nd Lt.  Zachary Ward
Master Sgt. Jodi Signer
Tech. Sgt. Brian Sinden

“If they get the call, they’ll be here,” said Durham. “Uniform on, bags packed, within 72 hours, ready to go. And not just ready to go and spin up, but ready to fight however the engagement needs. That’s what this crew did.”

These three pilots and three loadmasters were recognized for their participation in the Operation Allies Refuge, specifically their mission on Aug. 26, 2021. 

The crew launched in a C-17 Globemaster III from Al Asaleem Air Base in Kuwait to Hamid Karrazi International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan immediately after receiving notification of a base attack at Abbey Gate that killed over 170 civilians and 13 United States service members.   

Within hours, the crew left HKIA with 23,000 pounds of critical base supplies for continuing base operations, a combined 13-member aeromedical evacuation and critical care transport team, and caskets for the deceased United States service members. 

As the C-17 approached the airspace surrounding HKIA, they had to avoid small arms fire as they flew through congested airspace with minimal air traffic control support. 

Despite these dangerous conditions, the crew successfully and safely landed the aircraft.

On the ground, they offloaded their cargo and commanded the emergency evacuation of wounded Afghan nationals, to include three children on life support systems.

All of this was done during an engine running onload while critically low on fuel and as the airfield was under continuous indirect small arms fire and as there was a looming threat of a second base attack.

Departing HKIA, the crew skillfully navigated to avoid gunfire and then conducted an air refueling in chaotic airspace to ensure mission completion. 

“They crew stood up when their nation called, as this wing always does,” said Dubuisson, who was the aircraft commander for the mission. “I am so proud and honored to have flown with you guys and call you friends and family.”