Six Airmen Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross For Playing Critical Role In 2017 Yemen Raid

“These six airmen exhibit extreme competence that I think defines air commandos. Despite all the difficulties and despite all the...

Six special operations airmen have each received the Distinguished Flying Cross for their bravery during a doomed special operations forces raid in Yemen in 2017.

On Tuesday, the airmen from the 67th Special Operations Squadron received their awards at Hurlburt Field, Florida, according to Air Force Special Operations Command.

Maj. Ross Biechler, Capt. Justin Nadal, Maj. Mary Spafford, Tech. Sgt. Adam Phelan, Tech. Sgt. Samuel Haydon, and Staff Sgt. Christopher Jones made up an MC-130 crew known collectively as ARSON 69 during the raid on Jan. 28, 2017, in which Navy SEALs were sent to capture or kill a high value al Qaeda terrorist.

Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens became the first service member killed under the Trump administration during the 2017 mission. The special operations forces were immediately compromised and a fierce firefight ensued.

Amid deteriorating weather and several other aircraft breaking down, the MC-130 crew spent 16 hours refueling 25 aircraft while under the constant threat of ground attack, an AFSOC news release said.

Adding to the chaos, a Marine MV-22B Osprey crashed during the mission.

The crew also played a key role in rescuing the nine service members aboard the MV-22 that crashed by making sure four aircraft had the fuel needed to retrieve the Osprey crew and critical intelligence, according to the news release.

So far, AFSOC officials have not responded to questions from Task & Purpose about the MC-130 crew's role in the rescue.

“I'm very proud of the tremendous accomplishments of this crew,” said Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, AFSOC commander, in the news release. “These six airmen exhibit extreme competence that I think defines air commandos. Despite all the difficulties and despite all the chaos with the mission, they knew there was a way and they were going to find it.”

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