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

news
Patriot Missile Intercept Over Saudi Arabia

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."

SEE ALSO: This Tragic Stat Shows How Much We're Relying On Elite Combat Units

WATCH NEXT: Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman, MOH

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Aliah Reyes, a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) recovery team recovery noncommissioned officer, sifts through dirt during a recovery mission in Lang Son Province, Vietnam, Oct. 29, 2019. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

The 80-minute ride each day to the site in Lang Son Province, Vietnam, through mostly unspoiled forestland and fields, reminded Air Force Master Sgt. Aliah Reyes a little of her hometown back in Maine.

The Eliot native recently returned from a 45-day mission to the Southeast Asian country, where she was part of a team conducting a search for a Vietnam War service member who went missing more than 45 years ago and is presumed dead.

Reyes, 38, enlisted in the Air Force out of high school and has spent more than half her life in military service. But she had never been a part of anything like this.

Read More
A smoking U.S. Army Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle in Poland on January 18, 2020 (Facebook/Orzysz 998)

A U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicle burst into flames on the side of a Polish roadway on Saturday, the Army confirmed on Monday.

Read More
A U.S. Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) runs for cover during a live fire exercise at the 7th Army Training Command, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. (U.S. Army/Gertrud Zach)

A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.

Read More

The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.

Read More
Comedian and activist Jon Stewart meets with members of Toxic Exposures in the American Military (TEAM), a coalition of veteran and military service organizations, Jan. 17 on Capitol Hill. (Courtesy of TEAM)

Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.

"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."

Read More