For Extraordinary Aerial Achievement

A press release by Capt. Jennifer Proctor of the 138th Fighter Wing has announced that Lt Col. Michael Coloney was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for Valor for a mission he flew in support of Special Operations Forces in April of 2018.

Coloney had deployed to Afghanistan in 2018 with the 125th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon. On April 30th of that year, Coloney was in the air performing his assigned air operations mission when he received a tasking order to support a Special Operations Forces unit embedded with Afghan Army troops clearing a village in the Kapisa province.  This unit had come under attack by 80 Taliban armed with small arms, RPGs, and grenades.

This unit had taken eleven casualties with one killed in action.

For the next five hours, Lt Col. Coloney stayed over the target, and working with a Combat Controller on the ground employed GPS-guided bombs, and conducted high-angle strafing runs on enemy positions that at times were just thirty meters from friendly troops.

His accuracy and dogged persistence in engaging these enemy forces allowed the friendly unit on the ground to break contact with the enemy and evacuate their wounded without further loss of life.

As the press release stated,  “The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to an officer or enlisted person of the armed forces of the U.S. for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. The heroism or achievement must be entirely distinctive, involving operations that are not routine. It is the fourth-highest award for heroism and is the highest award given for extraordinary aerial achievement.”

A Georgia native, Lt Col. Coloney joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard in October 2005 and is a third-generation fighter pilot.  At the 125th Fighter Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, he serves as Director of Operations.


Retired Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III, former Director of the Air National Guard, presents Lt. Col. Mike Coloney, 125th Fighter Squadron director of operations, the Distinguished Flying Cross Dec. 5, 2021. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by A1C Allen Tyler/Released)

What is an Expeditionary Squadron?

The 125th is based in Tulsa Oklahoma, part of the 138th Fighter Wing, and is one of the original twenty-nine squadrons of the Air National Guard, dating back to 1940.  The squadron has fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Its status as an Expeditionary Squadron means that it’s comprised of regular Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air Guard personnel.  The benefit of this is that Air Guard units typically contain the most experienced pilots in the Air Force and can share that knowledge and experience with new regular Air Force pilots and Reservists attached to the squadron.  The 125th is also equipped and organized to deploy very quickly all over the world to places like Japan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.


F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Air National Guard’s 125th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, based in Tulsa AGB, Oklaholma, arrive at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The F-16s are assigned to the 33nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron for a two-month deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Richard Lisum)