I ran the Kabul evacuation’s airspace and all I got was an AF Comm Medal

| January 20, 2022

Senior Airmen Dakota C. Bartz and Andrew J. Kimrey (center) and Capt. Adam J. Solomon (right)

Some of the Airmen who ran the hectic airspace into, out of, and above Biden’s colossally botched Afghanistan pullout last summer recently received awards. The captain who ran the operation, and apparently worked hand-in-hand with the Taliban, received a Bronze Star (an in-theater Meritorious Service Medal) while the two senior airmen (E-4) received Air Force Commendation Medals w/ “C” device (for “combat”, i.e. in-theater, exposed to the potential for enemy fire but not actively engaged in combat).

You ask me, all these awards are too little. A company grade officer running the flight control for Kabul, which saw more than 120k people evacuated, and who had to engage in international diplomacy with a terrorist organization, should probably rate a Legion of Merit. Even a Distinguished Service Medal, for those who “Distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious service to the Government in a duty of great responsibility” would seem more appropriate. Especially since any field grade officer who walks through the CENTCOM AOR gets a meritorious BSM.

Then you get to the two E-4s who were on the radio doing the operation of coordinating the safe arrival and departure of hundreds of aircraft. They definitely rate the BSM for meritorious service in a combat zone. Instead they get commendation medals, which are normally give to E-6s and up or O-3s and up when they PCS. Though they do get a fancy bronze “C” to put on it. Which is nice. So they have that going for themselves.

From Task and Purpose;

Moving more than 124,000 people out of one airport in just a few weeks takes more than just pilots: it also takes planning. Few people know that better than Air Force Capt. Adam Solomon, who was awarded a Bronze Star medal earlier this month for “meritorious service” while coordinating the massive airlift that marked the end of the American war in Afghanistan in August.

While the headlines were filled with lines of Afghan refugees making their way onto C-17 transport jets, Solomon worked behind the scenes to make sure the entire operation, which involved hundreds of aircraft and several allied countries, ran smoothly. To make things more complicated, the airman had to do it all under the risk of enemy fire, and he also had to work with the invading Taliban forces to get as many refugees out safely as possible.

“None of us could have known that in a matter of weeks, the largest non-combatant evacuation operation in United States history would take place as 124,334 humans were delivered to freedom,” said Lt. Col. Brian Stahl, commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group, at the awards ceremony on Jan. 7, according to an Air Force press release. “We controlled the busiest and most dangerous piece of sky in the world … because a few dozen of our wing stepped forward in spite of the acute danger.”

Specifically, Solomon and a four man team coordinated communications for thousands of service members and allied partners and used a “new sequencing tool” that “increased outbound evacuation flights exponentially,” the press release said.

Though details were vague about what exactly the “new sequencing tool” was, it made such a big difference streamlining the coordination of air traffic that it was “hailed as a Defense Department benchmark and briefed to the President of the United States” and top officials from other nations. Just to give a sense of scale for the aircraft involved: An Air Force official told Task & Purpose in September that the service committed more than 230 aircraft to the effort, including C-17s, C-5 Galaxies, KC-10, KC-135 and KC-46 tankers, and C-130 turboprop transports. That group included more than half the branch’s fleet of 222 C-17s.

Category: Afghanistan, Air Force, Bronze Star

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Basically overhead SECFO traffic control.
Did they wear their special road guard vests while conducting operations??
If not, slap em with a LOC.


PT belts for safety?


Reagan would have fired them….


Wonder what the Captain’s boss received?


A promotion for his (her) hard work?

An Old Arty Sgt

I remember in Desert Storm an Tanker Platoon came under fire. The LT got a Bronze Star and all the enlisted got an Army Commendation Medal with a “V”.


A guy I was in the Navy with also had a tour in Vietnam as an artilleryman. After one mission under fire, he was told to pick ONE soldier to receive a BSM. He respectfully told the brass to fuck off and die. Might be the reason why he switched to the USN. No promotion potential after that!


Sounds like everyone working well above heir paygrade


I wonder what were the awards to the personnel at the Pentagon?


Sounds like “just another day at the office” for the E4 Mafia. The Captain musta stayed out of the way.

I do think that Big AF was a little chintzy in the awards…BZ Troops!

“…124,334 potential terrorists…” FIFY


Mason, under the current standards for the award of a BSM, I suppose those EM are entitle to one. I have two of them and an ARCOM for my service as a rifle company commander in the RVN. I almost consider them as “I was there” medals since I was awarded zip for my later, more dangerous, service as a LRRP company commander, doing a great deal of flying over enemy controlled real estate.

MI Ranger

Hopefully they happily accepted the award, and complained to all their buddies later.
I can tell you right now: That No one below the rank of O-6 (with the exception of the General Officer assigned CSM) receives a Legion of Merit. It is a club and none a worthy unless you have kissed the correct “fourth point of Contact”.
As for a CPT earning a BSM…sure that is about right.
As for an E-4 receiving a AFCOM with “C” device…well what exactly else could they receive for their efforts? Did it rate a BSM for their level of responsibility? Span of control? That is probably why they gave the CPT one, but if all they were doing was talking the aircraft in…unless they were talking them through loops and spirals under direct fire (which they were not) sounds like they got what they deserved. They did their job, and did it well, in a tricky but not life threateningly heroic operation.

I could go on and on, if you wanted to talk about something being downgraded in a time of war!!!


MI Ranger:

You wrote:

“That No one below the rank of O-6 (with the exception of the General Officer assigned CSM) receives a Legion of Merit.”

We know several US Army Soldiers who were below the Rank of O6 who received the Legion Of Merit…an O4 (Major), an O5 (LTC) a MSG (E8) and a SGM (E9). Those awards were not all Retirement Awards.


Sometimes it’s a matter of the bias of the person making the recommendation / approval.

My father (then Captain, USMC, aviation electronics officer) went out in the midst of rocket attacks at DaNang airbase Viet Nam to keep the radar, the comms, and ground controlled approach antennae and cables connected and aligned.

He was recommended for a Bronze Star.

The approving authority declared that “Bronze Stars are for trigger pulling Marines in combat with the enemy,” but he did approve a Navy Commendation Medal (a general purpose “atta-boy” medal for a hard job well done), but with the “V” device for valor.

I think he was prouder of that award than for any “Bronze Star for Achievement.”

Last edited 3 months ago by Charles

I wish my Desert Storm ARCOM had a V.
E-3 me,

Bill R.

Air Force Commendation Medals are usually given to E-6 and below, not up. When I was in, a Commendation Medal was very hard to award to an E-4 and below. They usually got Achievement Medals.