Charleston Airmen receive 4 AF Aircrew Excellence Award

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Lane
  • 315 Airlift Wing Public Affairs
A Team Charleston Aircrew, received the Fourth Air Force Aircrew Excellence Award Nov. 19 here for their efforts while executing an airlift mission to Central African Republic Sept. 25, 2015.

As a part of Operation Echo Casemate, the aircrew of REACH 356 braved poor weather conditions, fuel system malfunctions, extended duty hours and enemy ground fire to deliver French peacekeeping soldiers and mission-critical cargo to Central African Republic.

“We had 315th Aircrew, a 437th Flying Crew Chief, and 628th Ravens,” said Col. Caroline Evernham, 315th Airlift Wing Operations Group commander. “This crew was truly representative of Joint Base Charleston and the great association we are a part of. These Airmen did the job we sent them to do. Lt. Col. Scott Torrico led his crew superbly. With the help of his crewmembers, he analyzed each situation and made the right decisions in order to accomplish the mission and protect the crew, the passengers and the aircraft. The crew responded perfectly and all did what was expected of them.”

The crew’s mission was to provide the existing forces in Central African Republic with fresh personnel and supplies.

“We were moving some French troops into Africa and then picked up some people that were doing the same job as them and taking them back to France,” said Staff Sgt. Meghan Servais, 701st Airlift Squadron loadmaster.

During the mission, the Airmen contented with heavy rain, thunderstorms and approximately 40 knot wind gusts.

“Africa has some of the worst thunderstorms in the world,” said 1st Lt. Jordan Barnes, 701st AS pilot. “Because of all of the heat, they’re very powerful.”

Due to that bad weather and a language barrier with another airport, the crew was forced to divert to Diori Hamani International Airport, Niamey, Niger for refueling, said Barnes.

Upon final approach into Niger, the crew experienced hostile ground fire and lasing directed at their aircraft, however, they were able to accomplish a safe landing.

“Along the way, there were some incidents that happened,” said Barnes. “There were no injuries, no damage to the jet, but there were some people there that didn’t like us.”

After obtaining the fuel for the C-17, the crew encountered a problem with the fuel system, which left them “dead in the water,” Barnes said.

“Our jet was borderline broken,” said Servais. “One of the fuel totalizers wasn’t showing us the amount of fuel that it had in it so we couldn’t take off unless that was fixed.”

After an intense hour of contingency planning and collaboration from the entire crew via Crew Resource Management, the system regained the appropriate readings for takeoff.

The aircrew endured further complications and battled fatigue from a 28 ½ hour duty day. However, the crew was successful at getting airborne and safely delivering 41 passengers and cargo to Evreux Air Base, France.

“We worked great as a team, that was a big thing,” said Barnes. “Fatigue can make you really short, but none of that ever happened. We had a lot of people in the back and we had to get them back safely.”

“In the heat of the battle, the heat of the moment, you never think about the accolades,” said Barnes. “You do want you’re trained to do to get the mission done.”

Members of the awarded crew are: Lt. Col. Scott Torrico (701 AS), Capt. Andrew Bean (701 AS), Capt. James Witherspoon Jr. (701 AS), 1st Lt. Jordan Barnes (701 AS), Tech. Sgt. Danny Esquibel (701 AS), Staff Sgt. Meghan Servais (701 AS), Senior Airman Weldon Noble (300 AS), Staff Sgt. William Eason (437 AMXS), Senior Airman Jordan Estes (628 SFS), Staff Sgt. Anthony Logan (628 SFS) and Senior Airman Salvador Bonilla Jr. (628 SFS).

Original award story:

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