Stories of Service: When raising your right hand makes a difference

  • Published
  • By Sheridan Fidelman
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Senior Master Sgt. Reedy
The year is 2003. A young Christopher Reedy has just finished high school. While other graduates are contemplating their future, Reedy makes a decision that will go on to shape his life.

A few short months after graduation, Reedy enlists in the United States Air Force and reports to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. “I think it’s noble to serve your country and I felt like it was my duty to serve,” Reedy said.

Maj. Konkolics
A few short years after the United States suffered the most devastating terrorist attack in its history, a young Kyle Konkolics felt a strong desire to serve his country. Before graduating, Konkolics would spend all the money he earned on a passion he loved--flying airplanes. So, it was no surprise when Konkolics made the decision to join the Air Force. “I knew I wanted to make my hobby into a career with the United States Air Force,” he said.

Today, both Konkolics and Reedy are part of the 58th Special Operations Wing, 71st Special Operations Squadron, stationed at Kirtland AFB. But this is not the only connection these two share. To learn about that, we need to take a trip back to the year 2020.

The mission
Konkolics and Reedy were members in a joint operation that successfully completed a dangerous hostage rescue operation.

On Oct. 26, 2020, Philip Walton, a 27-year-old American, was abducted by a group of armed kidnappers in northern Nigeria.

Rescue teams were quickly assembled as part of a major effort to free Walton before his abductors could get far, according to ABC News.

Konkolics reflects on his feelings when he first was told of the rescue mission.

“With just a few hours from notification, the team deployed and met up with special operations forces. The team knew there was an American being held hostage and it was our duty to rescue him from his captors. We all were mission focused and were determined to bring him back, putting his well-being above our own. Training kicked in and we were ready to answer the nation's call.”

Reedy also recalls how he felt when notified he would be part of one of the crews participating in this rescue mission.

“I felt privileged and excited to be able to execute the mission the CV-22 [Osprey] was designed for. We all trained for this and knew how big of a mission this was. I think most of us only slept a few hours over a couple of days from the time of notification. I think mostly because what we knew was at stake.”

The New York Times reported in 2020 that on Oct. 31, 2020, only a few days after the American was taken hostage, a heroic rescue mission launched during the early morning hours, using the cover of darkness. Konkolics and Reedy, along with the entire joint operations team, took off to fly the longest-distance nighttime hostage rescue mission in U.S. military history.

The rescue mission carried Navy SEAL Team Six operators thousands of miles into northern Nigeria. The SEALs parachuted to the ground, killed all but one of the kidnappers, and rescued the American hostage. The CV-22 pilots were forced to land on dangerous terrain in order to exfiltrate the SEAL Team and the rescued hostage.

The operation was a success. The hostage was rescued, six kidnappers were killed, there were no American casualties, and all the aircraft returned safely.

Konkolics and Reedy both performed above and beyond the call of duty while supporting the rescue mission of an American hostage who was otherwise unreachable by conventional means.

The Distinguished Flying Cross
In response to their extraordinary achievements while participating in this hostage rescue operation, Konkolics and Reedy were presented the Distinguished Flying Cross during a ceremony at Kirtland AFB Jan. 11.

The DFC is a medal awarded to any officer or enlisted person of the United States armed forces for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. The DFC is the fourth-highest award given in the military, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

Konkolics said he was honored and humbled to receive the medal. “I was just doing my job like I always do. It wasn’t just me in that aircraft or in that formation of airplanes. There was an amazing aircrew and team who all did their part to make the mission the monumental success it was. They equally deserve the same recognition. This Distinguished Flying Cross is just as much theirs as it is mine. Without them, I would not be receiving this award.”

Konkolics looks back fondly at his Air Force career and states, “The Air Force is a family. These past 20 years have gone by quickly, and I have had the privilege of working with some of the finest men and women in the world. The Air Force is a great organization to be a part of, whether you are a pilot or cook. We all play our part to do something amazing for our nation. And those who raise their hand to serve are the 1% who keep this nation free.”

Reedy also recalls the choices he made at a young age that got him where he is today. From a fresh new high school graduate to a senior enlisted leader for the 71st SOS at Kirtland AFB, Reedy is grateful for the career choice he made at such a young age.

“The military is a good place to find who you are as an individual, establish a solid future and make an impact in the world,” he said. "I’ve spent the majority of my life in the Air Force, at this point, and I have a lot to be thankful for because of it. The people I serve with are what make it worthwhile, and I view them as a second family. I will miss their daily presence in my life once the ride ends and I retire.”