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Top Tier Aviator

  • Published
  • By by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Ballard
  • 145th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Leaflets and food supplies fell from the sky as Tech. Sgt. Brian Wahl watched the first ever airdrop for the Afghanistan Air Force. Tech. Sgt. Wahl, 156th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, was awarded the prestigious Red Erwin Award for when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2017 and served as an air advisor for the Afghanistan Air Force airdrop program.
“It feels great to be recognized and it’s a huge deal to me to be recognized as a top aviator in my tier!” said Wahl.
During 2017, Wahl served as an air advisor to the Afghanistan Air Force where he provided instruction on their first ever airdrop. He advised the Afghanistan Air Force on their airdrop program and rigging course for the C-130 and C-208 aircrafts. The first ever airdrop released over 600 pounds of food and leaflets, and a key area controlled by ISIL forces. As a result of Wahl’s leadership, the town elders that received the leaflets provided the location of a hidden ammunitions cache for the Afghanistan National Army, which resulted in liberation a key area and no casualties during the mission.
“I am super proud of Tech. Sgt. Wahl and all of the hard work he has done. The request for air advisor mission occurred during an unsettling and dangerous time in Afghanistan, but Tech. Sgt. Wahl willingly volunteered to go,” said Lt. Col. Bradley Holbrooks, commander of the 156th Airlift Squadron.
The Red Erwin award was created in 1997 in memory of Henry Red Erwin, who was a flare operator during WWII. Erwin and his crew were aboard a B-52 aircraft for a bombing mission to Japan. He was in charge of deploying phosphorous flares to mark targets and a flare prematurely deployed inside of the aircraft. Erwin grabbed the flare while enduring severe burns, and threw it out the co-pilot’s window to save the crew and aircraft.
This is not the first time that Wahl has been recognized for his outstanding abilities. When he was a Senior Airman, he was selected as Airman of the Quarter and has been presented with multiple other awards.
“He has always excelled at his job and this is an extremely prestigious award where only three of 2,900 people within the Air Force are selected for the award,” said Lt. Col. Holbrooks.
Prior to the deployment, Wahl took time to learn more about the culture of Afghanistan and Dari, the local language, in order to effectively advise the Afghanistan Forces. Additionally, Wahl completed his bachelor’s degree while deployed to Afghanistan. 
When asked how he felt winning the award, Wahl said, “I was very humbled. I know I am good at what I do, but I never saw myself to be on this level. I just see myself as doing my job.”