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19th Air Force Commander bestows Bronze Star Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross to recipients

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills, 19th Air Force commander, salutes.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills, 19th Air Force commander, salutes during the National Anthem at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Nov. 3, 2020. Wills presented a Bronze Star Medal and two Distinguished Flying Cross awards to Airmen from the 58th Special Operations Wing for their acts of heroism and bravery while participating in an emergency operation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

Bronze Star Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross recipients.

From left, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills, 19th Air Force commander, Lt. Col. John R. Leachman, 71st Special Operations Squadron CV-22 Osprey evaluator pilot, Lt. Col. Adam C. Darrow, 58th Operations Group Detachment 1 commander, and Tech. Sgt. Samuel T. Levander, 71st Special Operations Squadron operations section chief, stand at attention during a ceremony at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Nov. 3, 2020. Wills presented a Bronze Star Medal and two Distinguished Flying Cross awards to the recipients for their acts of heroism. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

An Airman is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills, 19th Air Force commander, bestows the Distinguished Flying Cross to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Adam C. Darrow, 58th Operations Group Detachment 1 commander, at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Nov. 3, 2020. The Distinguished Flying Cross medal is awarded to service members for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

An Airman is awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills, 19th Air Force commander, bestows the Bronze Star Medal to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John R. Leachman, 71st Special Operations Squadron CV-22 Osprey evaluator pilot, at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Nov. 3, 2020. The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to service members for heroism and meritorious achievement during a military operation against an armed enemy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

An Airman is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills, 19th Air Force commander, bestows the Distinguished Flying Cross to U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Samuel T. Levander, 71st Special Operations Squadron operations section chief, at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Nov. 3, 2020. The Distinguished Flying Cross medal is awarded to service members for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

team Kirtland members gather for a ceremony.

Team Kirtland members gather to honor and recognize recipients of the Bronze Star Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross medal at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Nov. 3, 2020. Three members of the 58th Special Operations Wing were recognized and awarded for their exemplary acts of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills, 19th Air Force commander, speaks during a ceremony.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills, 19th Air Force commander, speaks during a ceremony at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Nov. 3,2020. Wills visited Kirtland Air Force Base and bestowed the Bronze Star Medal and Distinguished First Class award to three Airmen for their heroic actions during an emergency operation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

Honor Guard presents the colors.

Members of the Kirtland Air Force Base Honor Guard present the colors during an award ceremony at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Nov. 3, 2020. A ceremony was held to recognize and honor 58th Special Operation Wing recipients of the Bronze Star Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross for their acts of heroism and bravery while participating in an emergency operation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

The year 2020 started like any other, or did it? 

For some, 2020 began with relaxation with the family or celebration... Until the phone rang. 

Three Airmen answered their nation’s call and participated in a mission that led to a three-part evacuation of 194 special operations forces in a hostile environment. 

For their heroic actions, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Adam C. Leachman, 71st Operation Squadron CV-22 Osprey pilot, was presented the Bronze Star Medal, and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Adam C. Darrow, 58th Operations Group Detachment 1 commander, and U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Samuel T. Levander, 71st Operations Squadron operations section chief, were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. 

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills, 19th Air Force commander, gave the invocation speech and presented the recipients with their awards on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Nov. 3, 2020. 

“Ten short months ago, while the world was preparing to ring in the new year, tensions in the Middle East continued to rise,” said Wills. “On December 31, 2019, a [group] of Iraqi militiamen surrounded the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and began attacking the perimeter and once again the world held its breath to see what would happen.”

Wills described the men’s bravery and heroism during the operation. 

“Today John Leachman, Adam Darrow and Samuel Levander join in the pantheon of Air Force heroes,” said Wills. “Their names [are] forever associated with courage and bravery, mission accomplishment and excellence. They follow in the footsteps of the thousands of Airmen who have gone before in the service of our nation and fought so we can enjoy freedoms and prosperity that most Americans take for granted. Most importantly so that we, our people and our allies, can live in peace.”

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael D. Curry, 58th Special Operations Wing commander, reemphasized the professionalism and continued leadership of these heroes. 

“This happened less than 10 months ago, and already those Airmen are in leadership and instructor roles, training the next CV-22 aviators,” said Curry. “We put our best Airmen into Air Education and Training Command and train the next generation of combat warriors.”

Curry said that it was important to showcase the outstanding accomplishments the Airmen achieved. 

“Often, our quiet professionals don’t talk about what they do or see when they are deployed,” said Curry. “So these recognition ceremonies are great to let more people understand the missions that we are used in.”