3rd AS aircrew receive AFA Lt Gen William H Tunner Award

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Faith Schaefer
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Aircrew from the 3rd Airlift Squadron received the Air Force Association’s Lt. Gen. William H. Tunner Award for their efforts during Operation Allies Refuge, from Aug. 12, to Sept. 1, 2021.

Air Mobility Command leadership present the annual award to the most outstanding strategic airlift crew in the United States Air Force.

“With so many amazing crews across AMC and other Royal [3rd AS] crews to choose from for this award, we are thankful we were able to contribute to the largest noncombatant evacuation operations in U.S. history and add the 2021 Tunner Award to the 3rd AS heritage,” said Capt. Joshua Jordan, 3rd AS pilot, who served as aircraft commander.

The crew, which consisted of three pilots and two loadmasters from the 3rd AS and two flying crew chiefs from the 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, departed from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on a C-17 Globemaster III, Aug. 12, 2021.

“We knew this mission was different and more important than anything we had previously flown before,” said Jordan.

While on the first mission en route to Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, the airfield lost runway lighting and the lights were not able to be restored. This required incoming aircraft to be denied launching or landing.

“Our crew knew those on the ground in Kabul left their homes and lives in Afghanistan behind to be rescued,” said Jordan. “With the clock ticking on the evacuation deadline, OAR depended on aircrew to safely balance the weight of mission execution with pre-existing regulations.”

While depending heavily on training practiced at home station, the crew was able to complete the first C-17 arrival into Kabul using a makeshift infrared runway. The crew safely executed the delivery of reinforcements from the 82nd Airborne Division, as well as the evacuation of 254 civilians out of Afghanistan upon departure.

Throughout the following three missions, the crew tackled various obstacles due to the ever-changing environment on the ground. They coordinated two occasions of air-to-air refueling and responded to two onboard medical emergencies while pushing capacity limits to save as many lives as possible.

“Capt. Jordan and crew devised a method to carry 392% more passengers on each flight to Europe and coordinate the approval,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Dove, 3rd AS commander. “Additionally, the crew kept their engines running on the ground at their destination and stayed with the aircraft for hours to ensure passenger safety with outside temperatures peaking over 100 degrees.”

Dove ensured that all 3rd AS crews were regularly trained on procedures that were executed during OAR, such as assault landings while wearing night vision goggles, air-to-air refueling and transporting passengers. But ultimately, it was their actions and decisions that changed lives.

“We do not have specific training to teach crews how to make such challenging decisions and how to solve complex, urgent problems through innovation and determination,” said Dove. “That is what sets this crew apart.”

After returning safely to Dover AFB on Sept. 1, the crew had completed 13 sorties, flew 52.2 combat hours, carried 564,509 pounds of cargo and airlifted 1,154 passengers from Afghanistan.

"Capt Jordan and the crew demonstrated complete professionalism, expert skill and devotion to duty," said Col. Matt Husemann, 436th Airlift Wing commander. "Crews and the support it takes to make missions like these successful are why our Air Force has a bright future, they made the mission happen. They saved lives, took care of people and delivered hope across the globe at the speed of relevance."

The aircrew will be accepting the award and representing Dover AFB at the 2022 Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyberspace National Conference.

The crew members recognized for this award are:
U.S. Air Force Capt. Joshua Jordan, 3rd AS pilot
U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew Steele, 3rd AS pilot
U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Nathan L. Creech, 3rd AS pilot
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Tyler Bergstrom, 3rd AS loadmaster
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Ballard, 3rd AS loadmaster
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Hull, 736th AMXS flying crew chief
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Trenton Torgerson, 736th AMXS flying crew chief