Maj. William Mendel, a CV-22 pilot assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron, received a Distinguished Flying Cross on May 15 in a ceremony at Cannon AFB, N.M., for “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight,” according to a press release. On Dec. 21, 2013, then-Capt. Mendel was deployed with the 8th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron to Djibouti. On a mission to evacuate American citizens from a United Nations compound, his aircraft came under heavy fire and “sustained severe damage, including ruptured fuel tanks, complete loss of the largest hydraulic system, and an inoperable emergency lubrication system,” according to the award citation. He directed an emergency refueling, which included manual extension of the damaged refueling probe, in order to allow his aircraft to land outside of the conflict zone. He then coordinated with a pararescue team to arrange medical treatment for four critically wounded personnel on the lead aircraft in his formation. That team initiated a blood bank to give life-saving transfusions to the wounded members upon their emergency landing in Uganda. Mendel “was responsible for safely recovering four crewmembers, nine passengers, and his aircraft,” according to the citation.
Read our coverage of the harrowing mission in Blood Over Bor from the October 2015 issue of Air Force Magazine.