Outstanding Airmen of the Year: Staff Sgt. Steven C. Peters 

The Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2022 will be formally recognized at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference from Sept. 19 to 21 in National Harbor, Md. Air Force Magazine is highlighting one each weekday from now until the conference begins. Today, we honor Staff Sgt. Steven C. Peters, a paramedic for the 60th Medical Group at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. 

When Kabul fell in August 2021, Peters’ medical group supported Operation Allies Refuge at Hamid Karzai International Airport. On the day of the evacuation’s mass casualty event, his experience as a paramedic proved invaluable. 

“[Our colonel] let us know that we had patients that still needed to be picked up on the other side of the flight line,” Peters said. “During this time, our entire base is still in lockdown. We’re still under fire.”

Peters stepped up to lead a team to confront the incoming attack and to recover the patients: nine seriously injured service members. Along with an Army medic and two pararescue members, Peters took a Turkish ambulance headlong into the melee to reach the flight line. 

“There was a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “There was a lot happening around me. I had already seen the other casualties, [so we had to be] in the mindset of [finding] the best outcome for everyone.”

The patients weren’t in good shape—one had just gotten out of acute surgery, and the others were all critically wounded. There wasn’t enough time or cover to stabilize them on site, so Peters and his team loaded the patients into their vehicle to keep moving. With the Army medic driving, Peters and the pararescue members tended to the wounded in the back. His alertness and trauma expertise kept them stabilized until they safely arrived at a treatment facility. 

“Two or three of them went to surgery immediately when we arrived,” Peters said, “but everyone survived.” 

Evacuated families had become separated during the mayhem. 

“We started realizing that a lot of children were left behind,” Peters said. 

Peters, coordinating with joint service leaders and Norwegian Armed Forces members, worked to arrange bedding, rations, and entertainment to keep morale up among the isolated evacuees until they could be reunited with their families or relocated somewhere secure. But putting these Afghan children on planes “onesie-twosie” wasn’t efficient, and certainly wouldn’t ease the minds of parents or loved ones looking for them. 

To expedite the process, Peters’ team managed to coordinate an entire Aeromedical Evacuation unit from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., to take a full flight of Afghan children to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

“We worked really hard to get that one flight,” Peters said. “I think that was the biggest win.” 

Peters recently completed the rigorous and intensive six-month Paramedic Course at Pima College in Tucson, Ariz. He is working as an emergency room paramedic at Travis Air Force Base and is expecting a permanent change of station order in October. He said he likes the changes and challenges posed by his service in the Air Force and his paramedic career.

“My mom and all of my friends keep me on the straight and narrow,” he said. “If I’m making those people around me proud, that just shows me I’m doing the right thing.” 

Meet the other Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2022 below: