News>Air mobility liaison officer receives AF award for valor while serving in Afghanistan
Capt. John D. Garvin, an air mobility liaison officer assigned to the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., stands with Lt. Slorea, his Romanian drop zone controller student, above the landing area at firebase Atghar in Afghanistan’s Zabul Province, Nov. 18, 2010. Garvin was awarded the 2011 General P.K. Carlton Award for Valor Nov. 5, 2011, for accomplishing the emergency relocation of the drop zone to a safer area inside the firebase. (Courtesy photo)
An emergency airdrop of fuel lands inside the newly created drop zone at firebase Atghar in Afghanistan’s Zabul Province, Nov. 18, 2010. Despite the small landing area, 19 of 20 bundles landed inside the firebase perimeter. The 20th bundle landed right outside the back gate, seen in the upper left. (Courtesy photo)
by Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs
11/18/2011 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- An air mobility liaison officer, who enabled an emergency airdrop at a remote Romanian firebase on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2010, was awarded the 2011 General P.K. Carlton Award for Valor.
Capt. John Garvin, assigned to the 621st Contingency Response Wing here and stationed with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg N.C., received the award Nov. 5, at the Airlift/Tanker Association's annual convention in Nashville, Tenn.
The award is presented each year by Air Mobility Command to a single airlift or tanker aircrew member who demonstrates courage, strength, determination, bravery, and fearlessness during a combat, contingency or humanitarian mission. The award is named for retired Gen. Paul K. Carlton, who commanded Military Airlift Command from 1972 to 1977.
At this time in 2010, Garvin was deployed to Afghanistan, supporting Combined Joint Task Force 101 in Regional Command East. On Nov. 18, he was sent to firebase Atghar in Zabul Province.
The remote 12-man Romanian operations mentor liaison team there could only be supplied by air and had less than 72 hours of fuel remaining for its generators and vehicles. His mission as an AMLO was to perform a reconnaissance of the drop zone, train the Romanian soldiers as drop zone controllers, and execute a safe, emergency aerial re-supply operation.
"When I arrived at the firebase, I learned two things in short order; the Romanians were preparing for a large Taliban attack and the drop zone was a two-mile drive down a very dangerous road filled with improvised explosive devices," said Garvin. "But I needed to see the drop zone for myself right away and make a judgment call."
With night rapidly approaching, active enemy forces in the area, and the resupply airdrop scheduled the next morning, Garvin requested a security detail to travel with him to the drop zone for reconnaissance. He and four Romanian soldiers traveled by foot to a ridge overlooking the drop zone.
"Getting the supplies back into the firebase from that drop zone was going to get somebody killed," he said. "We needed to move it closer, and fast. We had less than 18 hours until the skies were full of falling parachutes."
Traveling back towards firebase Atghar, Garvin surveyed the region looking for a safer area the Romanians could reach and protect with their small force. He identified an ideal location within the confines of the Romanian base. He immediately collected information and marked the location of the intended point of impact for the new drop zone site. He then uploaded the information to the Air Mobility Division tactics team at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center for urgent action.
"While AMLOs train to safely coordinate drop zones in hostile locations, the time, pressures and hazards of this drop combined to make this mission a very special circumstance," said Lt. Col. Chris E. Gavin, who was acting as commanding AMLO for all U.S. forces in Afghanistan. "Capt. Garvin was absolutely the right person at the right time to make this challenging airdrop happen."
The AMD approved the new drop zone and less than 18 hours after his arrival, a C-17 Globemaster III swooped in low and executed a perfect delivery, said Gavin.
In a single pass, the aircrew dropped 20 bundles, or 80 55-gallon drums, of the mission-essential fuel. Their aim onto the much smaller drop zone was excellent, explained Garvin. Nineteen of the unguided parachutes landed inside the perimeter of the small firebase. The twentieth bundle came down right outside the back gate and was quickly and safely recovered.
Shortly after recovering the bundles, the prior warnings proved true when Garvin and the Romanian student controller he was training came under the direct attack of an enemy sniper and were pinned down for nearly 45 minutes. Garvin issued commands to the other soldiers on the base to maneuver personnel and weapons into tactical positions to prepare for a firefight. The repositioning of the weapons as a show of force deterred the insurgents from launching an attack and caused them to disengage.
"I am absolutely convinced that if Capt. Garvin had not moved the drop zone, good soldiers would have lost their lives that day," said Gavin. "This was a no-fail, absolutely critical mission; the enemy knew it and was determined to stop that resupply, but they failed.
"There isn't a doubt in my mind that if he wasn't there, the story would have ended in tragedy."
While agreeing Garvin's actions that day were extraordinary, Col. Dwight K. Dorau, 621st Contingency Operations Support Group commander, notes they are but a single tale in the CRW's constant worldwide mission; deploying versatile mobility Airmen who train hard to solve problems in complex environments.
"His actions are a perfect example of the vital skills and leadership 621st air mobility liaison officers provide our sister services every day in conflicts and contingencies around the globe," said Dorau. "He truly sets an incredible example for others to follow and I am proud to call him a Devil Raider."