Almost 10 months after the harrowing footage of Afghan civilians clinging to a departing C-17, then falling to their deaths went viral, the Air Force has decided on the fate of the crew. According to the Office of Special Investigations, the Airmen who crewed the aircraft “during an unprecedented evacuation where resources were constrained to on-going security and evacuation activities,” had been cleared of all wrongdoing by lawyers and military investigators.
C-17 Crew Cleared After Civilians Clinging to Plane Fell to Their Deaths During Afghanistan Evacuation https://t.co/XwkzNL5LKl
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Spokeswoman for the Office of Special Investigations, Linda Card said, “The Staff Judge Advocate offices from both the Air Mobility Command and the United States Central Command conducted a review of the inquiry findings and rendered concurring opinions that the aircrew was in compliance with applicable rules of engagement specific to the event and the overall law of armed conflict.”
On August 16 of last year, a C-17 deployed from Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord landed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. There, hundreds of Afghan civilians stormed the runway and flocked to the plane, forcing it to take off before before downloading its payload.
The Air Force quickly released the following in a statement: “Faced with a rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft, the C-17 crew decided to depart the airfield as quickly as possible.”
Ann Stefanek, and Air Force spokeswoman, reported that investigators determined that the C-17 crew utilized “sound judgment” during an “unprecedented” challenge. While she described to the event as “tragic”, she also added that the crew “acted appropriately…to get airborne as quickly as possible.”
An anonymous C-17 pilot who was also involved in the pull-out from Kabul said, “That’s the right call. The [crew has] probably been on pins and needles since this happened. There were no good options, but the crew made the exact right call.”
Stefanek also said in a statement, “The aircrew’s airmanship and quick thinking ensured the safety of the crew and their aircraft. After seeking appropriate care and services to help cope with any trauma from this unprecedented experience, the crew returned to flight status.”