November 6, 2007 (by Jennifer H. Svan) - Capt. Seward "Two Dots" Matwick, 28, an F-16 pilot with the 14th Fighter Squadron earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in a combat mission over Iraq in February.
USAF F-16C block 50 #90-0822 from the 14th FS taxi's on the flightline at Balad AB.
Matwick's air action came on a day that started out ordinary.
He and his wingman, Capt. Brent Ritzke, also of the 14th Fighter Squadron, were called on to provide surveillance south of Baghdad, where "a high-powered meeting" was going down.
The coalition unit they were supporting was suddenly ambushed, Matwick said.
"It turned violent pretty quickly," he recounted.
Working with a Joint Terminal Air Controller on the ground, Matwick and Ritzke dropped two bombs and made three strafing passes.
"Not only were the troops not overrun, they were able to go into the village and take the offensive and see what was being protected," Matwick said.
Coalition forces found a large weapons cache and militants in hiding.
Matwick said the close air-support mission was "very difficult, very intense."
The pilots were flying "right underneath the weather, which really highlighted us," he said, putting them at risk of ground-to-air fire.
It was a day of contrasts. One moment, it was "extreme boredom," the next it was "extreme excitement," Matwick said. "I wasn'nt expecting anything in particular and then 'bam,' we were called on to do what we train for.
Receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial combat, was humbling, Matwick said.
"I think of war heroes ... of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were flying over World War II," he said. "Brent and I were at the right place at the right time, and we did the right job. It's not many missions where so obviously American lives hang in the balance, so that's what added to this pressure."
Though his wingman didn't receive the medal, Matwick said he and support personnel were critical to getting the job done.
"It was a team effort," he said. "I got the reward, but the bombs came off well, the guns fired correctly ... everything worked as advertised."