September 11, 2007 (by SSgt. Alice Moore) - An F-16 pilot assigned to the 35th FS was recently awarded the Distinguish Flying Cross for his extraordinary achievement while flying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Capt. Anderson received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in support of OIF.
Captain David Anderson, a 35th FS
flight commander, received the medal from Col. CQ "Wolf" Brown, 8th Fighter Wing commander.
"Captain Anderson distinguished himself with courage and flight skill during combat operations enabling ground forces to get out of harms way," said Colonel Brown. "It was my honor to award him the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. He's one shining example of many Airmen who contribute to the fight everyday."
From September 2006 to January 2007, Captain Anderson was assigned to the 524th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Balad Air Base, Iraq. During this time, which happened to also be his first deployment, the F-16 pilot flew missions in support of ground forces fighting against insurgents throughout Iraq.
Early on the morning of Nov. 16, on a routine combat mission, Captain Anderson flew under the call sign Hound 72 along side his flight lead Capt. Nick Sweeney. Fifteen minutes after arriving over Kirkuk, Iraq, Captain Anderson said the pair was redirected to support a TIC (Troops in Contact) situation east of Baghdad.
"By the time we arrived on station that morning, the Army platoon that needed support had been in continuous contact with the enemy for 40 hours," Captain Anderson said.
He said the JTAC
(Joint Terminal Attack Controller) attached to the Army platoon on the ground who's call sign was Brewmaster 46 tasked the fighters above to search for a vehicle that had been sighted Southeast of the platoon's position.
Several minutes later, Captain Anderson said the platoon came under heavy small arms fire from an enemy dug in behind a small dirt berm.
"We were flying at about 12,000 feet when all of a sudden our radios exploded with the sound of Brewmaster 46 screaming that they (ground troops) were under attack, and were effectively pinned down" he said. In the initial volley of the ambush the platoon leader was fatally wounded.
It was then the JTAC immediately began directing the F-16 pilots on to the location of the attack while still continuing to fire his weapon at the enemy.
"We did three low passes over the area in an attempt to determine the exact location of the enemy, but were unsuccessful. After the third pass, Captain Sweeney was forced to disengage and proceed to the tanker to air refuel leaving me on station," Captain Anderson said.
"At the typical higher altitudes F-16s fly, it's almost impossible with the naked eye to spot ground fighting between small, dismounted units," he said.
This forced the pilots to fly at much lower altitudes when supporting the ground forces. With this being his first deployment, Captain Anderson said this particular mission was definitely challenging.
"I can't begin to describe how stressful it was. This was a far different situation from what typically happened on our normal missions. Our troops on the ground are always in complete control even in a battle, but these guys were fighting for their lives and we were all over the sky trying to confirm their position."
As the enemy fire intensified the JTAC ordered a strafe pass with the F-16's 20mm cannon. Captain Anderson said his 500-pound bombs were too dangerous to employ due to the enemy's close proximity to the friendly forces.
"I understood the urgency of the request, but was still uncertain of the friendly and enemy positions. We are trained to be extremely careful when employing any kind of weapon close to friendly forces or civilians due to the risk of fratricide."
Captain Anderson executed a fourth low, fast pass of the target area in an attempt to gain sight of the enemy. Flying over the target area at 300 feet and 500 knots, he was able to catch sight of both the U.S. troops and insurgents just meters apart.
"I received special clearance and I rolled in from the north, identified my target and opened fire with my 20 mm cannon." he said. "In three successive strafe passes, I fired all 510 rounds in my gun, silencing the enemy position. Brewmaster 46 said in later conversations that he was so close to the enemy that as my high explosive 20mm rounds impacted, he was showered by dirt and debris."
Captain Anderson said at this point he was well below his Bingo fuel. Bingo fuel is fuel that is needed to be able to get to a tanker to receive fuel or return to base and land. Soon after Captain Anderson's last strafe pass Hound 71 came back to the scene and took control of the target area allowing Captain Anderson to depart to the tanker.
At the end of the fight, Captain Anderson said there were six reported enemy fighters killed by 20 mm rounds. One of those insurgents was killed in the act of setting up a 60 mm mortar with eight rounds ready to fire.
Despite his recent accomplishment, Captain Anderson said he's humbled and honored to receive the medal.
"Personally I don't really think anything I did had anything to do with courage. It's the guys who were on the ground that day getting shot at who are the real heroes. All that mattered to me was to make sure those guys got to go home safely. My job was to protect them and I was honored to be able to do it. I'd do it all over again in a heart beat."
After Captain Anderson returned home, he was able to meet with the JTAC controller, (An Air Force Staff Sergeant) who has asked to remain anonymous.
"I got to meet him and his family for the first time and hold his little baby girl who was born 2 days before he got home. There's nothing else like being able to support the guys on the ground in such an extraordinary situation and then be able to meet them personally. He's a consummate warrior and we've become life-long friends, he said."
The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the U.S. armed forces who distinguishes himself or herself in combat in support of operations by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight subsequent to Nov. 11, 1918.