Pathfinder receives Air Medal for heroism during Operation ALLIES REFUGE

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jessica Avallone
  • 501 CSW/PA

Operation ALLIES REFUGE in Kabul, Afghanistan, is the largest Noncombatant Evacuation in U.S. Air Force history. Tech. Sgt. Kenneth W. Bish, 422nd Security Forces Squadron Plans and Programs noncommissioned officer in charge, was one of many to assist the successful evacuation of 122 thousand Afghanistan nationals. In recognition of his efforts, he recently received an Air Medal.

“At the time, my leadership walked into my office and said they needed fly-away security to go to Kabul to help pull refugees out of Afghanistan,” recalled Bish. “I raised my hand and got on a plane that same day.”

That one action would lead Bish to witnessing the end of a 20-year conflict as well as evacuating 1,300 refugees and 90,000 pounds of cargo over nine missions.

“We immediately went to Kabul and worked with all the joint services; Marines, Army, Navy, just about everybody was working together to make this happen,” said Bish. “And of course, Air Force air crew, everything from loadmasters, to pilots, to port dogs, and security forces.”

Bish explained his role as ‘fly-away security’ meaning he kept the flight deck secure from the moment they departed, to the hours in the air, on arrival, and back nine times. Each flight held anywhere from 200 to 500 refugees, and he ensured there was no unauthorized access to the flight deck and no interruption of flight operations.

“I think we changed a lot of lives,” said Bish. “There were over 100,000 refugees that were eventually moved out. I didn't move 100,000 people but being part of giving them a new life and more freedom away from Taliban control is a significant thing and holds a significant part in my heart.”

For his distinctive heroism Bish received an Air Medal with C-Device which recognizes meritorious achievement in aerial flight under combat conditions. Though he is proud of the role he played, “as a Security Forces member, I did my part. I did what was asked of me, but I think the people who deserve the most recognition are definitely the crew chiefs and those who kept the planes going consistently around the clock for that entire month.”

Accolades aside, Tech. Sgt. Bish is an invaluable member of the 501st Combat Support Wing and his efforts were crucial to the success of Operation ALLIES REFUGE.

“I did what any other defender would have done if placed in that situation,” said Bish. “I did my job.”

Bish is one of only 229 personnel who received Air Medals for their role in Operation ALLIES REFUGE.