The enemy was not able to get a single shot off at the MEDEVAC helicopters, due to the precise airpower strikes of Spooky 41’s aircrew.
On the night of Apr. 3, 2019, on a heavily-fortified mountainside near Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, a group of joint American special operations and coalition forces found themselves taking fire as casualties mounted after an improvised explosive device attack.
As told by Staff Sgt. Nicole King, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs, in the article Gunship crew awarded 14 medals for joint SOF Afghanistan mission, in need of assistance, the Special Tactics operators on the ground called for an AC-130U “Spooky” Gunship, (call sign Spooky 41) who arrived to suppress the enemy located in close proximity to the group.
As the gunship fired down on the enemy, at times less than 140 meters from the group, three medical-evacuation helicopters hovered more than an hour to safely rescue all 15 patients. The enemy was not able to get a single shot off at the MEDEVAC helicopters, due to the precise airpower strikes of Spooky 41’s aircrew.
Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, presented two Distinguished Flying Crosses with “C” device and 12 single event Air Medals with “C” device to 4th Special Operations Squadron Airmen during an awards ceremony Mar. 2, at Hurlburt Field, for their actions in April.
“The most lethal part of any gunship is not the 25 mm, the 40 mm or the 105 mm (weapons) sticking out of the side of this big, beautiful airplane,” Slife said during the ceremony. “The most lethal part of the gunship is the crew.”
The Spooky 41 aircrew provided precision-strike support to Special Tactics operators for more than nine hours, enabling the safe recovery of all 15 patients and supporting the clearance of an Islamic State group of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan redoubt. The mission took place during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in support of the Resolute Support mission.
Army Capt. Benjamin Carnell, SOF team member and one of the casualties rescued by MEDEVAC, said to the Spooky 41 crew.
“From the regiment, from the assault force and more specifically from my wife and my son and my daughter – I want to thank you for your professionalism and for rising to the occasion” Carnell said. “Without any of that, I would not have been hoisted out of there and I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you today, so I am indebted to you in a way that I can’t describe.”
The AC-130U “Spooky” gunships’ primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. Close air support missions include troops in contact, convoy escort and point air defense. Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity and include strike coordination, reconnaissance, and armed overwatch mission sets.
The Spooky is the third generation of C-130 gunships. All gunships evolved from the first operational gunship, the AC-47, to the AC-119, and then the AC-130A which was the basis for the modern C-130 gunship. The AC-130H “Spectre” gunships were fielded in 1972 and retired in 2015.
The AC-130U Spooky Gunship is slated for retirement as the next variant, the AC-130J “Ghostrider” Gunship, takes over their mission.
“This is probably the last ceremony of this sort we will do for any AC-130U crew before the last aircraft departs Hurlburt Field later this year,” Slife said.
Air Medals are awarded to U.S. and civilian personnel for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight and foreign military personnel in actual combat in support of operations.
The “C” device was established to distinguish an award earned for exceptionally meritorious service or achievement performed under combat conditions.
4th SOS Medal Recipients
Capt. Neils Aberhalden, aircraft commander
Capt. John Crandall, Jr., navigator
Air Medal Recipients:
Capt. Micah T. Uvegas, fire control officer
Capt. Brian K. Yee, co-pilot
1st Lt. Nicholas J. Maiolo, electronics warfare officer
Tech. Sgt. Ryan A. Estes, aerial gunner
Tech. Sgt. Jacob B. Griffen, flight engineer
Tech. Sgt. Austin L. Parrent, aerial gunner
Staff Sgt. Samuel Mayfield, sensor operator (Not in attendance)
Staff Sgt. Michael S. Martinez, aerial gunner
Staff Sgt. Omar J. Diaz, sensor operator
Staff Sgt. Jonathon M. Friesz, direct support operator
Senior Airman Jacob C. Bateman, aerial gunner
Senior Airman Zadok N. Dean, III, aerial gunner
Photo credit: Senior Airman Joseph P. Leveille and Airman 1st Class Hailey M. Ziegler