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U.S. Air Force Capt. Dave Anderson and Staff Sgt. Tim Silva do a pre-flight inspection Sept 10 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. Anderson recently received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Araceli Alarcon

U.S. Air Force Capt. David Anderson

Pilot Receives Distinguished Flying Cross
By Staff Sgt. Alice Moore
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea, Sept. 13, 2007 — An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 35th Fighter Squadron here was recently awarded the Distinguish Flying Cross for his extraordinary achievement while flying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Capt. David Anderson, a 35th FS flight commander, received the medal from Col. C.Q. Brown, the 8th Fighter Wing commander.

"Captain Anderson distinguished himself with courage and flight skill during combat operations enabling ground forces to get out of harm's way," Brown said. "It was my honor to award him the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is one shining example of many airmen who contribute to the fight every day."

From September 2006 to January 2007, Anderson was assigned to the 524th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, Iraq. During this time, which was 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, Anderson flew under the call sign Hound 72, alongside his flight lead Capt. Nick Sweeney. Fifteen minutes after arriving over Kirkuk, Iraq, Anderson said the pair was redirected to support troops 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," Anderson said.

He said the joint terminal attack controller attached to the Army platoon on the ground, whose call sign was Brewmaster 46, tasked the fighters to search for a vehicle that had been sighted southeast of the platoon's position.

Several minutes later, 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 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," 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.

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 onour normal missions," the captain said. "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. 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," he said. "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."

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 20mm 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."

Anderson said at this point he was low on fuel and needed to be able to get to a tanker to receive fuel or return to base and land.

Following Anderson's last strafe pass Hound 71 came back to the scene and took control of the target area allowing Anderson to depart to the tanker.

At the end of the fight, Anderson said there were six reported enemy fighters killed by 20mm 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, 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," he said. "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 heartbeat."

After 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 two 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," Anderson said. "He's a consummate warrior and we've become lifelong friends," he said.

The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to any U.S. servicemember who distinguishes himself in combat in support of operations by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight subsequent to Nov. 11, 1918.

Last Updated:
09/21/2007, Eastern Daylight Time
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