SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. – Lt. Col. Christopher Anthony presents Capt. Mike Polidor with a Distinguished Flying Cross Medal here, April 9, 2010. Colonel Anthony is the 335th Fighter Squadron commander. Captain Polidor, 335th FS F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, hails from Pittsburgh, Pa. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Courtney Richardson)
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. – Lt. Col. Christopher Anthony presents Capt. Aaron Dove with a Distinguished Flying Cross Medal here, April 9, 2010. Colonel Anthony is the 335th Fighter Squadron commander. Captain Dove, 335th FS weapon systems operator, hails from Hudson, Wis. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Courtney Richardson)
by Tech. Sgt. Tammie Moore
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/19/2010 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Two 335th Fighter Squadron Chiefs were formally recognized for their support of ground troops while deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, with Distinguished Flying Cross Medals April 9.
Only those who differentiate themselves from their peers through heroism or extraordinary achievements during flying operations earn the honor of wearing a Distinguished Flying Cross Medal. There are only three higher ranking flying medals.
Captains Aaron "Finch" Dove and Mike "Ox" Polidor now stand among this exclusive group, which includes the Wright Brothers and Charles Lindbergh. The captains earned the 218th and 219th Distinguished Flying Crosses presented to aircrew members for actions in support of Operations Enduring Freedom.
The Airmen were on the Bagram AB flightline preparing for a mission in an F-15E Strike Eagle when they received an urgent request for close-air support over Combat Observation Post Keating Oct. 2, 2009. When they arrived on the scene about 10 minutes later, they found smoke billowing from the Kamdesh Valley. Approximately 250 Taliban fighters ambushed the outpost in a highly coordinated 360-degree attack. The insurgents pinned down more than 80 coalition soldiers and destroyed most of the post in the assault.
"It was intense the whole time," said Captain Dove, 335th FS F-15E weapon systems operator. "It was about seven hours of being on station and about an eight hour total sortie."
From the skies above COP Keating, Captain Dove relayed target coordinates, elevations and issued final clearance on air strikes. The Hudson, Wisc., native twice identified coordinate errors and directed the attacks to be aborted before the munitions were released.
"It was absolute pandemonium," said Captain Polidor, 335th Fighter Squadron F-15E pilot. It was just an absolute mess, and it took a good hour to get that complete mess under control, he said.
Captain Polidor checked into the 335th FS the day the unit began spinning up for the deployment to Bagram AB. Despite being his first,deployment, he was able to remain level-headed and focused on the task at hand, saving lives on the ground. The Pittsburgh native took control of the 19 aircraft on scene and orchestrated air strikes from six F-15Es, four A-10s, two AH-64s and a B-1.
"The squadron got us ready; all of the guys in my situation were well prepared," he said. "But, (this situation) was definitely an eye opener. It was kind of like baptism by fire."
The training the duo received prior to their deployment is what they attribute their ability to successfully manage the skies over COP Keating.
"Anyone in our squadron would have done the same exact thing and could have done it as well or better than we did," Captain Dove said. "We just happened to be there, that is the only difference."
Captains Dove and Polidor helped save 72 coalition lives that day.
"That is our mission over there, is support for all of those guys," Captain Dove said. "It is our whole reason for being over there. Every time you walk out there is a little sign on the door and it says 'the mission is an 18-year-old with a rifle; everything else is support.' Basically we are just there to help those guys."
4/20/2010 8:55:57 AM ET Fantastic job. God bless all of our men and women in uniform - especially in combat.