Cannon Airmen to receive Distinguished Flying Cross

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

Two Cannon Airmen will be awarded the oldest American military aviation award at the 9th Special Operations Squadron Auditorium on base Jan. 5, 2018.

Brig. Gen. William G. Holt, Air Force Special Operations Command Director of Operations, will present Capt. Charlotte Raabe and Staff Sgt. Gary Bjerke of the 9th SOS the Distinguished Flying Cross for conducting an emergency aerial resupply to U.S. troops while under direct fire from the enemy.  

Both Airmen were part of a 6-man aircrew on a MC-130J Commando II aircraft conducting an emergency resupply airdrop to a team of United States and Coalition Special Operations Forces who were under hostile fire in an isolated area in Afghanistan. Raabe acted as the Combat Systems Officer while Bjerke was the aircraft’s loadmaster.

Raabe had to make recalculations while the aircraft went through an area where the enemy’s small arms and anti-aircraft artillery could reach her aircraft with lethal effectiveness. Despite the aircraft taking fire, Raabe prepared the aircrew to still deliver the resupply. Bjerke readied himself to drop it out of the back.

“It did not set in that we were taking fire until the ramp and door had opened,” Bjerke said. “I distinctively remember hearing the cracks of the bullets passing behind the aircraft. The only thing I could think of was that this resupply needed to be executed successfully. I was entirely focused on doing what I had to in order get the drop off.”

The airdrop bundle effectively landed within 50 meters of the Special Forces team, providing critical ammunition and supplies that directly contributed to the successful counterattack by the team. As a result, the entire Special Operations team was safely evacuated in a timely matter after achieving national level objectives.

“Charli and Gary represent the best of what Air Commandos bring to the work we do every day at home and abroad,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Bartlett, 9th SOS commander. “It is an honor to be able to recognize them for the selfless professionalism they exhibited a year ago in Afghanistan.” 

The DFC is the fifteenth highest U.S. Military decoration awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the U.S. Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to Nov. 11, 1918. Other aviators in the exclusive group include Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Amelia Earhart and President George H.W. Bush.

“It is very humbling to receive this award,” Bjerke said. “I was surprised when I was notified and I am honored to receive it.”