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Operator recognized for exceptional service with aircrew

Direct Support Operator from the 25th Intelligence Squadron, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathan, in front of an aircraft.

Tech. Sgt. Nathan, 25th Intelligence Squadron direct support operator, along with his fellow aircrew members were recently selected as the recipients of the Air Force Association 2017 Lt. Gen. William H. Tunner Award. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Spain)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- Tech. Sgt. Nathan, 25th Intelligence Squadron direct support operator, along with his fellow aircrew members were recently selected as the recipients of the Air Force Association's 2017 Lt. Gen. William H. Tunner Award.

Nathan and his special operations aircrew, based out of the England, were invited to the Air Force Association National Convention in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18-20, 2017, where the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein recognized their accomplishment.

Goldfein commended the aircrew of the MC-130 for their outstanding airmanship and devotion to duty while conducting an on-call, emergency resupply airdrop for U.S. and coalition special operations forces.

While isolated, under hostile fire and with enemy forces only moments away, the only remaining means of survival for the special operations teams was an immediate resupply from the nearby MC-130, according to the award nomination.

When the aircrew was sent to assist the forces with the resupply, they knew it was an area with enemy activity, which forced multiple changes to the airdrop point. Conditions in the area rapidly deteriorated, necessitating an armed escort for the drop, according to the nomination.

Despite overwhelming odds, and with increased risk due to daylight conditions, the aircrew responded to the troops-in-contact situation and delivered the needed ammunition and supplies, all while their aircraft was being struck by a barrage of enemy fire.

Immediately after the bundles were dropped, the aircraft began taking heavy enemy fire from multiple directions but the aircrew was able to exit the area and land at their destination.

As a result of the aircrew’s actions that day, and their successful resupply of the friendly forces, the aircrew prevented further loss of life and preserved a $72 million aircraft, the nomination noted.

The 25th IS direct support operator assigned to that aircrew said it felt good to be a part of the team that day.

“It was a great honor to be part of such a vital mission,” he said. “We knew going in that this would be dangerous, but the team on the ground needed this resupply. Each of us accepted this risk in order to assist in the rescue of the team. ”

Nathan’s commander reiterated the impressive capabilities of the aircrew and the importance of the mission they risked their lives to complete.

“Even though they had knowledge of the direct enemy threat in the area, the crew displayed unparalleled courage, ingenuity and decisiveness to complete their life saving resupply mission to support the (special operations force) team under attack,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Norton, 25th IS commander. “The flawless execution of this combat resupply airdrop by the aircrew not only proved instrumental to the final rescue of the besieged SOF team, but helped to achieve national-level objectives in Afghanistan.”

(Note: For security purposes the last name of the Airman was removed.)

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