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AMC commander recognizes Altus AFB Airmen for OAR contributions

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander, presented Lt. Col. Patrick McLaughlin, 97th Air Mobility Wing director of staff, with the Bronze Star Medal of Valor at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Feb. 2, 2024.

The award recognized McLaughlin's leadership during Operation Allies Refuge in Al Udeid, Qatar, where he served as the commander of the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, leading his unit through one of the most critical missions in recent history.

The squadron played a pivotal role in executing the evacuation effort that spanned 17 days, nine countries, eight time zones, and more than 10 temporary safe havens.

Very few people in life ever get an opportunity to do something that has true gravity.” McLaughlin said. “I was a part of a team that saw their moment in history and there wasn't a second of hesitation. I just happened to be the commander of the 816 riding the wave of their motivation.”

The commendation highlighted McLaughlin's leadership during the operation, which ultimately resulted in the largest Non-combatant Evacuation Operation airlift in U.S. history. Roughly half of the U.S. Air Force fleet of 222 C-17 Globemaster IIIs were committed to this operation.

“I look at this ceremony as an incredible honor,” said McLaughlin. “I don't know if I necessarily warrant the level of recognition that it's bringing, just because there are so many other stories that are out there of true heroism that I hope come to light soon. But it is a very humbling experience to be recognized this way.”

Minihan also recognized Capt. Kyle Ferral, Capt. James Sheridan, and Staff Sgt. Andre Morgan with Air Medals for Combat and awarded Capt. Jose Gutierrez with a Meritorious Service Medal for their efforts during Operation Allies Refuge, which led to the evacuation and saving of 124,000 lives.

This is Mobility’s Hometown and the magnificence of mobility starts here,” Minihan said. “And the magnificence that was displayed in Afghanistan during those 17 days—17 days, one runway, 124,000 evacuees—was born and bred from this airfield right here.”