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CSAF presents Distinguished Flying Cross to Airman for heroic efforts during Operation Allies Refuge

  • Published
  • By 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. visited the 375th Air Mobility Wing on Nov. 17, 2022, and presented the Distinguished Flying Cross to an Airman for her actions in Operation Allies Refuge during the single largest aeromedical evacuation airlift in Kabul Coalition Hospital’s history.

More than 1,000 Total Force Airmen gathered for an all-call in Hangar 1 where Brown presented the Distinguished Flying Cross to Tech. Sgt. Katherine Rosa Orellana, a Critical Care Air Transport Team Respiratory Therapist embedded at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

“Thanks for making my day,” Brown said, after explaining that this was the first Distinguished Flying Cross he has presented in his career. “Many of you were involved in the largest humanitarian airlift in the world, and you should be proud.”

A staff sergeant at the time, Orellana distinguished herself by her actions during flight in response to a no-notice urgent combat mission after a massive casualty event caused by a suicide bomber at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 26, 2021.

“I joined the team a week prior and had to trust they knew what they were doing, and when we went in, we just did our jobs,” Orellana said. “And we did really well.”

Orellana was among the first to respond to the mass casualty, evacuating and saving the lives of 22 multinational and joint-service casualties, including five ventilated patients and multiple Afghan evacuees over an eight-hour period.

She took action when one of the casualties required special care after the operation, expediting labs to identify the fatal condition of the critically wounded patient—all while operating under significant threat of attack.

“It’s an amazing honor and I’m just taking it all in,” Orellana said. “I’m going to keep pushing forward.”

After presenting the medal to Orellana, Brown talked about driving change across the force and coined three Airmen from Team Scott who demonstrate that drive.

“We have tremendous talent in our force, and we’ve got to use it all,” Brown said. “If we want to make sure there is global security, we all have to work together.”