August 23, 2002 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Lt. Col. Burt Bartley won the 2002 Joe Bill Dryden Semper Viper Award for his leadership in the rescue of a downed MH-47 helicopter crew during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in March 2002.
With survivors pinned down by enemy fire, two orbiting F-15E crews out of ordnance, and flying in mountainous terrain under constant small arms fire, Bartley made two strafing runs to help neutralize enemy positions and allow survivors to find cover and care for the wounded. After refueling, he immediately returned to the site, coordinated with the ground forward air controller, and conducted a series of bombing runs, closing to within one hundred meters of the crash site. Bartley protected the survivors for more than two hours.
He ensured that two critically injured soldiers were safely airlifted out and provided close air support for ground troops and cover for rescue helicopters until reinforcements arrived. His outstanding airmanship in an extreme combat environment led to the recovery of thirty-nine American soldiers.
Bartley commanded the 354th FS
from Eielson AFB
, Alaska, at the time.