Air Force to Award Air Medals to C-17 Crew who Broke Diplomatic Protocol to Save a Life

Air Force to Award Air Medals to C-17 Crew who Broke Diplomatic Protocol to Save a Life
A U.S. Air Force C-17 from Joint Base Charleston banks over the Arthur J. Ravenel Bridge above downtown Charleston during a training mission, May 16, 2006. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV)

U.S Airforce is considering to Award Air Medals to C-17 Crew for their act of heroism to save a sailor who had been wounded in combat and was in critical condition.

The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III flight included Air Force Capt. Forrest “Cal” Lampela, the aircraft commander and C-17 instructor pilot; Capt. Chris Puckett, a C-17 instructor pilot; Capt. Ken Dickenscheidt, a C-17 pilot; Senior Airman Chris Kyle Bowers, a C-17 instructor loadmaster; Airman 1st Class Timothy Henn, a C-17 loadmaster; and Tech. Sgt. Nick Scarmeas, flying crew chief of the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Air Force to Award Air Medals to C-17 Crew who Broke Diplomatic Protocol to Save a Life
Senior Airman Kyle Bowers, left, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, and Capt. Cal Lampela, a C-17 pilot, are instructors assigned to the 14th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Joshua R. Maund)

With the six members of the crew, the patient and the Critical Care Air Transport Team, known as a CCATT, there were 17 people bound for Joint Base Andrews from Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Air Force to Award Air Medals to C-17 Crew who Broke Diplomatic Protocol to Save a Life
Members of the U.S. Air Force 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron assist patients on a C-17 Globemaster III medical transport flight out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 21, 2013. With help from the critical care air transport team, the crew can turn a C-17 into a flying intensive care unit to move injured or ill service members by air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Willis)

At approximately halfway over the ocean, the patient started to destabilize. The C-17 crew contacted the air operations center at Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to strategize.

“They couldn’t get his blood levels under control”. “They brought enough blood for the flight, but he was bleeding out in one and, they thought possibly, two wounds. So they didn’t have enough blood to keep him stabilized. Secondly, we needed dialysis because his kidneys had failed, so they needed a hospital.”

The crew looked at the available options.

The C-17 was probably four hours from the tip of Canada and approximately two hours from Ireland

Without following the diplomatic protocol the crew made the decision to turn around and head to Ireland.

After landing C-17 at Ireland the sailor was taken off the C-17 five minutes after the aircraft landed.

Soon after landing Capt. Forrest “Cal” Lampela was answering calls from both the Irish and U.S. embassies.

“They wanted to know several things, such as were we there to spy, or if we had anything that was not allowed in the country, such as guns or something like that,” he said.

Lampela called his chain of command in Charleston to say they would be delayed.

“I said, ‘All right, uh, don’t get mad. I declared an emergency. I’m in Ireland without diplomatic clearance or, if you hear something about me, it was warranted,'” he recalled.

After receiving clearance, the crew stayed in Ireland for 24 hours, waiting for the sailor to undergo surgery before flying him to Joint Base Andrews. He was transported in stable condition.

The decision they made to turn back from the U.S. and head to Ireland to save the sailor’s life got the Air Force’s attention: The six airmen are now under consideration for the Air Medal for making the right call under difficult circumstances. The sailor remains unidentified for privacy reasons.

“For their act of heroism and success in operating beyond what is expected and routine, Capt. Lampela and his crew were submitted to be awarded single-event Air Medals,” Lt. Col. Kari Fleming, 14th Airlift Squadron commander, told on Monday. “It is my honor to recognize this deserving crew with such a rare decoration.”

The medal is awarded to U.S. and civilian personnel “for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight … in actual combat in support of operations,” according to the service. It can also be awarded to foreign military personnel.

Editor’s Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on

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