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Urbandale resident is only the second nurse to receive the aerial armed forces award

River to River, hosted by Ben Kieffer

A central Iowa nurse was recently awarded for her efforts in evacuating patients out of Kabul, Afghanistan in August of 2021.

Urbandale resident Maj. Katie Lunning is a Minnesota Air National Guard air transport nurse and Intensive Care Unit nurse manager at the Central Iowa VA Health Care System.

Lunning was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross this month in Saint Paul, Minnesota for her exemplary service during a six-month tour based in Qatar in July 2021. As a member of a Critical Care Air Transport Team, Lunning worked around the clock to evacuate more than 20 patients following the suicide bombing on August 26, 2021, that killed more than 160 civilians and 13 American service members at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

River to River host Ben Kieffer talks with Lunning about how the harrowing experience evolved from what began as a typical deployment to Qatar, her work caring for veteran and civilian patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, and getting to camp under the northern lights as part of a military exchange with Norway.


  • Maj. Katie Lunning, CCATT Nurse, 133rd Airlift Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Samantha McIntosh is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio. Prior to IPR, Samantha worked as a reporter for radio stations in southeast and west central Iowa under M&H Broadcasting, and before that she was a weekend music host for GO 96.3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.