Distinguished Flying Cross awarded for heroism in action
By Staff Sgt. Philip Steiner, 352d Special Operations Wing
/ Published February 13, 2018
RAF Mildenhall --
An MC-130J Commando II crew flies an 18 hour mission over the rugged landscape of Afghanistan, providing the supplies needed to fight and win against the unforgiving enemy. The crew is exhausted and look forward to nothing more than a hot meal, a warm shower and a sleep to refresh before starting it all anew the following night.
However, as the sun comes up over the horizon and these Air Commando’s lay down, they receive the call that fellow Special Operation Forces are in need of their help… and once again they are thrust back into the forefront of the fight.
This is the start of the narrative described at the awards ceremony for Capt. Joseph Castro, 67th Special Operations Squadron pilot and Staff Sgt. Joshua Call, 67th Special Operations Squadron loadmaster at RAF Mildenhall, Feb. 8, 2018. Both Air Commandos received the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for their actions on this harrowing flight into enemy territory to resupply fellow Special Operation Forces in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 5, 2016.
Within an hour of being notified, both Airmen are back in the air, loaded with a bundle drop bound for a Special Operations team in small outpost in the depths of Afghanistan.
The team of United States and coalition Special Operations Forces are taking fire from numerous positions and enemies. They are pinned down and needing that resupply. Conventional means of resupply have been exhausted and are no longer an option.
Despite the high potential for surface-to-air engagement, Castro coordinates for an armed aerial escort and manages the crew and aircraft systems as the aircraft takes small arms fire and anti-aircraft artillery.
Throughout the airdrop run-in, Castro updates the correct airdrop coordinates. However, with only minutes to spare, a problem is found with the supply bundle on the tail of the MC-130J.
As the plane flies closer to the drop zone, Call moves to the back of the plane and tries to fix the problem holding up the bundle. Due to the aircraft coming under fire, Call must delay the bundle manually by exactly one second after the release light turns green.
Despite the high tension and surface-to-air fire, Call’s actions and initiative lead to the successful resupply, within 50 meters of the Special Operations team, effectively halting any further loss of life of the Special Operations team within the field operating base.
Following the airdrop, Castro’s ability to manage the aircraft systems and checklists while maintaining situational awareness in an extremely complex and task saturated environment prevented further successful enemy engagement with the aircraft, preserving the lives of six aircrew and a 72 million dollar asset.