Local News

Pope Air Force Crew Instrumental In Rescue Of Aid Workers From Afghanistan

Posted December 26, 2001

— One of the most memorable moments of the war to date has been the rescue of eight Christian aid workers. Two of them were Americans. A Pope Air Force Base C-130 crew was instrumental in bringing them home safely.

Pilot Michael Yates and co-pilot Andy McGee have been in the cockpit many times before. But on one day in November, they were in the right place at the right time.

"Our thoughts were mostly on getting the job done. Until we actually got the job done, then it sunk in what we had actually done," said Yates.

What they did was help free Taliban hostages.

"We had seen all the interviews with the parents on the news. To know we were taking part of that makes it realistic for us," said McGee.

The Pope-based crew flew from Oman to Pakistan to wait on a Special Forces helicopter that helped rescue eight foreign aid workers, including Americans Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer.

Crew Chief Richard Johnson was in the back of the plane as they were hurried on board in the dangerous overnight mission.

"They were excited very quickly, but they were very hungry," he said.

About 30 minutes into the flight, the girls realized they were heading home. It was then that they broke out into cheers.

"I've been in the service for 16 years. When they offloaded to join their families and folks waiting for them, it made me proud to be in the Air Force," said Johnson.

The crew said it was amazed at what good shape the hostages were in after being held for more than three months. In fact, crew members said the girls did not even need medical treatment once they were on board the plane.

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