Louisiana airman, crew hailed as heroes in deadly battle

An Air Force airman from Louisiana is among the heroes of an AC-130 "Spooky" gunship crew who saved a U.S. Special Forces team and 43 Afghan soldiers who were ambushed by insurgents.

Senior Airman Raymond “Tyler” Bourne, a 2011 Neville High School graduate, and the 14-member crew were awarded the MacKay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of 2016. Bourne earned an Air Medal with Valor.

Members of the crew received their medals about five weeks after the battle, but the awards dinner and the trophy presentation took place this week in Washington. Family members of the crew, including Bourne's mother Kim Alaniz, also attended the ceremony.

The harrowing flight happened on Nov. 2, 2016, with the crew members putting their own lives in peril by exceeding the Howitzer cannon cooling requirements on board and risking detonation inside the aircraft.

They were called to the rescue after friendly forces were caught in a deadly ambush near Kunduz, Afghanistan, surrounded by a well-armed, large enemy force that created 16 friendly force casualties in the opening moments of the battle.

The gunship crew engaged the enemy within 10 meters of the Americans and Afghans, allowing those wounded to be cleared from the immediate kill zone, but the ambush continued as the friendly forces retreated.

Finally, with the gunship crew's ammunition dwindling, the members were forced to fire an airburst round, which is designed to be employed hundreds of meters from friendly forces, an unprecedented 12 meters from the Americans and Afghans.

It was a precise, deadly strike, annihilating the insurgents with a solitary shot, according to the Air Force, and done even as the crew had to stabilize the aircraft, which was by then running on fumes.

During the battle, the crew also secured additional fire support from AH-64 Apache helicopters, prepared medical helicopters to evacuate casualties and launched a Quick Reaction Force to help evacuate the ground force from the city.

Then, with minimal ammunition and fuel, the team led a dissimilar formation engagement between AC-130U and AH-64 assets to amplify damage on the enemy.

"The AC-130U gunship crew’s persistent fire support, presence of mind and courage during two hours of intense combat ultimately saved 50 lives," the Air Force said in a recount of the battle on its website, titling it "Portraits in Courage: Spooky 43."

Congressman Ralph Abraham met with Bourne and two other members of the crew this week.

"Their story of that battle is amazing," said Abraham, R-Alto, Louisiana's only member of the House Armed Services Committee. "People like Tyler and the other members of the crew make us all stand a little taller.

"I'm so proud to have him as part of our Louisiana family and thankful for all of their service and protection."

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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