92nd SFS Phoenix Ravens awarded AFAM for service during Operation Allies Refuge

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anneliese Kaiser
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Three Phoenix Ravens from the 92nd Security Forces Squadron were recognized with Air Force Achievement Medals for their meritorious service and outstanding achievement during Operation Allies Refuge, Nov. 1, 2021.


2nd Lt. Luke Wales, Staff Sgt. Ivan Bustamante and Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Tafoya, 92nd SFS Airmen, deployed as Air Mobility Command Phoenix Ravens to provide critical in-flight security for nine sorties, which moved 2,100 passengers out of Afghanistan, contributing to the United States’ largest-humanitarian rescue of 124,000 refugees.


“It was kind of a shock to get the call saying you’re going to deploy in less than 24-hours and you need to be ready,” Tafoya said. “A lot started racing through my mind, like family and friends, but after that lapsed over I knew I needed to be mission-ready and start thinking about how I can help the people to my left and my right.”


To become a Phoenix Raven, an Airman, sailor, or soldier must complete a rigorous 18-day, 12 hours-a-day course covering subjects such as cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations, embassy operations, airfield survey techniques, explosive ordinance awareness, aircraft searches, and unarmed self-defense techniques.


“What we’re proud of is the training, especially on the mental toughness side, prepared us for what we went through [downrange],” Wales said. “From the sleep deprivation to the chaotic flexibility to the physical hardships, we were ready.”


The Phoenix Raven program is taught by the 421st Combat Training Squadron out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and has been around for 24 years, with the goal of their students learning to protect military aircraft in an expeditionary environment.


“You go through this school and you earn the tab,” Wales said. “But to put it to use, and get that feeling of ‘Wow I endured a lot out there and held up those core principles that I learned in training while supporting such a big operation,’ it’s a different kind of accomplishment.”


Operation Allies Refuge was the largest-humanitarian airlift the United States has ever conducted, and brought an end to the United States’ longest war.


“I saw one male individual kiss the ground before he got on to the plane,” Bustamante said. “I also saw a lot of women crying and it was a very emotional time. I could see that I was a part of the operation making a big difference and helping those in need.”


Leaving to seek refuge can be a terrifying experience, but Team Fairchild Ravens were counted on to protect and support our assets and refugees with success.


“It was actually very eye opening and humbling,” Tafoya said. “Even though I only had a small part of it, I knew that I was helping people get to a better location, a better environment and be able to have that ‘American Dream’ that everyone is welcome to have.”


To bring home brothers and sisters in arms was the last phase of the operation and possibly the most rewarding for the Team Fairchild Ravens.


“One thing that I really like to look back on is bringing our sister branches home,” Tafoya said. “It was rewarding to see them have relief on their faces whenever they got on the jet and were finally heading home.”


The unwavering dedication to the mission ultimately got this mission completed and earned these Airmen recognition.


“I’m proud of the team’s positive attitude they maintained the entire time,” Wales said. “There were so many days where we would wake up after three hours of sleep and know we were going to be gone for the next 20 plus hours, but during that entire process nobody backed out. Everybody just kept pressing on with the mission as best they could and made it happen.”