U.S. Air Force AC-130U Gunship Crew Awarded 14 Medals for Afghanistan SOF Mission

Aircrew of a U.S. Air Force AC-130U Spooky gunship, who took part in an Afghanistan mission in April, were awarded 14 medals during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, on March 2.

Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), presented two Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFC) with “C” device and 12 single event Air Medals with “C” device to 4th Special Operations Squadron (4th SOS) Airmen during an awards ceremony.

The DFC is awarded to any officer or enlisted person of the U.S. Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves in actual combat in support of operations by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.

Air Medals are awarded to the U.S. military and civilian personnel for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight and foreign military personnel in actual combat in support of operations.

The “C” device was established to distinguish an award earned for exceptionally meritorious service or achievement performed under combat conditions.

4th SOS Medal Recipients

DFC Recipients:

• Capt. Neils Aberhalden, aircraft commander
• Capt. John Crandall, Jr., navigator

Air Medal Recipients:

• Capt. Micah T. Uvegas, fire control officer
• Capt. Brian K. Yee, co-pilot
• 1st Lt. Nicholas J. Maiolo, electronics warfare officer
• Tech. Sgt. Ryan A. Estes, aerial gunner
• Tech. Sgt. Jacob B. Griffen, flight engineer
• Tech. Sgt. Austin L. Parrent, aerial gunner
• Staff Sgt. Samuel Mayfield, sensor operator (Not in attendance)
• Staff Sgt. Michael S. Martinez, aerial gunner
• Staff Sgt. Omar J. Diaz, sensor operator
• Staff Sgt. Jonathon M. Friesz, direct support operator
• Senior Airman Jacob C. Bateman, aerial gunner
• Senior Airman Zadok N. Dean, III, aerial gunner

Air commandos with the 4th Special Operations Squadron were presented with two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and 12 Air Medals by Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, at Hurlburt Field, Fla., March 2, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph P. Leveille)
Air commandos with the 4th Special Operations Squadron were presented with two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and 12 Air Medals by Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, at Hurlburt Field, Fla., March 2, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph P. Leveille)

During the April mission, the AC-130U crew provided more than nine hours of air support to joint American Special Operations Forces (SOF) and coalition forces, enabling the safe recovery of 15 patients. The mission took place during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in support of the Resolute Support mission.

The Afghanistan SOF Mission:

On the night of April 3, 2019, on a heavily-fortified mountainside near Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, a group of joint American special operations and coalition forces found themselves taking fire as casualties mounted after an improvised explosive device attack.

In need of assistance, the Special Tactics operators on the ground called for an AC-130U “Spooky” Gunship, (call sign Spooky 41) who arrived to suppress the enemy located in close proximity to the group.

As the gunship fired down on the enemy, at times less than 140 meters from the group, three medical-evacuation helicopters hovered more than an hour to safely rescue all 15 patients. The enemy was not able to get a single shot off at the MEDEVAC helicopters, due to the precise airpower strikes of Spooky 41’s aircrew.

The Spooky 41 aircrew provided precision-strike support to Special Tactics operators for more than nine hours, enabling the safe recovery of all 15 patients and supporting the clearance of an Islamic State group of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan redoubt.

AC-130U Spooky Gunship

The AC-130U’s capability to track and engage several targets simultaneously with different levels of ordnance is an invaluable asset to special operations forces on the ground. It offers a 105 mm howitzer cannon, 40 mm Bofors cannon and a 25 mm GAU-12 Gatling cannon.

The gunship has a storied history dating back to the Vietnam War, with the first variant, the AC-47 – a modified Douglas DC-3 mounted with three 7.62 mm miniguns – was credited with destroying more than 10,000 trucks and many life-saving close air support missions.

The 3rd generation AC-130U Spooky Gunship is slated for retirement as the next variant, the AC-130J “Ghostrider” Gunship, takes over their mission. The final U.S. Air Force AC-130U Spooky gunship returned to Hurlburt Field from the airframe’s last scheduled combat deployment on July 8 last year.

The 4th Special Operations Squadron received its first Block 30 AC-130J Ghostrider gunship in March last year.

The AC-130J is modified with a precision strike package, which includes a mission management console, a robust communications suite, two electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors, advanced fire control equipment, precision-guided munition (PGM) delivery capability as well as trainable 30 mm and 105 mm weapons.



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