Airmen awarded for helping save scores of lives in Kabul airport bombing
Stars and Stripes November 20, 2023
Two airmen who helped save dozens of lives in the aftermath of a deadly suicide bombing outside Afghanistan’s Kabul airport more than two years ago recently were awarded Bronze Stars for their actions.
Capt. Carlos Mendoza and Staff Sgt. Morgan Reed received the medals at a ceremony earlier this month for their heroics following the attack, which killed more than 150 civilians and 13 American troops.
The pair helped save 78 patients, including U.S. service members and Afghan evacuees, according to award citations released by Air Mobility Command last week.
The Aug. 26, 2021, blast outside the airport’s Abbey Gate ripped through a packed crowd of Afghans fleeing the country during the U.S. military’s withdrawal. Moments after the attack, Mendoza, a flight nurse, went to a nearby emergency room and immediately began treating a wounded Marine with open wounds to her head and extremities, his award citation read.
He also assisted a special operations physician who had opened a Marine’s chest to search for the source of bleeding. Mendoza noticed the Marine’s heartbeat was slow and weak, and began performing a cardiac massage with his bare hand, his citation said.
The procedure sustained blood flow to the Marine’s brain and other vital organs.
“His remarkable performance and selfless commitment to his fellow comrades-in-arms saved lives,” Mendoza’s citation said.
Reed, a senior airman at the time, took on many different tasks. He applied a second tourniquet to a Marine’s arm that wouldn’t stop bleeding.
He then helped move two bodies to a makeshift morgue tent and assisted two mortuary affairs soldiers with searching for identification cards and dog tags.
Reed also made numerous trips transporting patients, medical supplies, equipment and blood to the emergency room, for many hours without rest.
“His rapid assessments and remarkable selflessness undoubtedly enhanced his team’s success and saved lives,” the citation said.
Mendoza and Reed were assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group. They were deployed from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar for Operation Allies Refuge, assisting in the evacuation of more than 124,000 people in the final weeks of the Afghan war.
At least 14 airmen have received Bronze Stars for their actions during the evacuation.
The mobility command also said it awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses to additional air crew members, such as maintainers and security forces, who flew with pilots and loadmasters already recognized for their contributions.
Another awards review board is ongoing, which could result in dozens more awards, AMC said.