KC-135 tanker crewmembers from McConnell Air Force Base received the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the military's highest honors, for their heroic efforts in Iraq.
What started as a normal refueling mission for the Wichita-based tanker crew turns into a work of heroism.
Last month, the crew was flying over southern Iraq, refueling fighter jets.
The southern Iraqi skies were relatively safe then, but northern Iraq and Baghdad were not, and that's where the crew was dispatched.
An F-15 fighter jet had gone down north of Baghdad, and other F-15's needed refueling to search for it.
"The biggest risk obviously that we had was surface to air fire and specifically radar guided missiles, that the odds of us getting hit by something greatly increased the further north we went," KC-135 Instructor Pilot Captain Nathan Howard said.
What's more is the tanker doesn't have defensive weapons, like chaff or flares, to confuse surface to air missiles. Nevertheless the airmen say a job had to be done.
Crewmembers say any fears they felt were outweighed by the importance of the job they were doing there.
One crewmember said she had difficulty sleeping after flying that mission.
The Distinguished Flying Cross is the highest award given to any aircrew for heroism in flight.