Col. Scott Mills, 355th Wing commander, presented the Bronze Star to Master Sgt. Paul Hiller, 66th Rescue Squadron senior enlisted leader, and Master Sgt. Greg Fellows, 66th RQS operations superintendent, for their actions in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 1, 2021.
The Bronze Star is awarded for meritorious service or acts of valor while serving in combat operations. The Bronze Star is the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces and the ninth-highest military award (including combat and non-combat) in order of precedence of U.S. Military decorations.
“I have one thought when I hear the word rescue,” said Col. Scott Mills, 355th Wing commander. “It is a promise made, a promise kept and a promise we will never fall back on.”
Hiller deployed to Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan within short notice. Upon arrival he led his team of 79 personnel, and three HH-60G Pavehawks to establish personnel recovery capabilities within 24-hours. Once Bagram Air Base became unstable, he created a personnel recovery compound inside the base, which was capable of housing all 174 personnel recovery task force members. This enabled continued recovery with zero gaps in coverage for the area of responsibility. While not manning a defensive position he ensured the safe passage of more than 100 innocent people to asylum.
“It does not matter how bad off you are, if you are ever somewhere alone, you are not alone,” said Mills. “If you are ever beyond the reach of normal people, rescue is going to be there, count on it.”
Fellows set up personnel recovery operations 48-hours after his arrival to Bagram. His leadership proved essential in establishing a joint operations center communications suite, along with retrofitting the forward deployed staff with encrypted over-the-horizon and line-of-sight communications. As the Taliban breached the boundaries of the capital and the airfield was being overrun by a terrified civilian population, he worked with U.S. forces and the Afghanistan forward commander to coordinate coalition aircraft to deliver critical combat forces, fortify strained base defenses and support the evacuation of 120,000 personnel. He also led a team to secure and refurbish the medical facility providing a staging location for the base to be able to quickly react to any medical emergencies.
After multiple base attacks, they executed the PRTF to reposition into Pakistan to ensure rescue coverage until all forces evacuated Afghanistan safely. The exemplary leadership of both men, personal endeavors and devotion to duty displayed in their responsible positions reflect a great credit upon themselves and the U.S. Air Force.