Three 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade pilots earned Army commendation medals with “V” device for valor on Forward Operating Base Fenty, Afghanistan, on April 26.
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Clifford Shaw, of Melbourne, Fla., U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Briggs, of Toledo, Wash., and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Smith, of Little Falls, earned the medals for their actions near the Pech river valley on Dec. 4, 2011.
Their two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters were tasked to support an Afghan National Army convoy that had come under heavy fire while attempting to recover three destroyed vehicles.
When they arrived, the team found enemy forces targeting the convoy from multiple points among steep terrain along the valley. The convoy was trapped between burning trucks and traffic as the enemy rained machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades down on them.
The Kiowas brought themselves low over the convoy, within the range of enemy fire, to ensure Afghan soldiers were in a safe area prior to engaging the enemy.
Because of the steep, narrow terrain, which is often found in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountain range in eastern Afghanistan, the team had to perform a series of difficult and dangerous maneuvers to attack.
As soon as the lead aircraft engaged, enemy forces began firing at the helicopter. Briggs began his own attack to cover the lead aircraft, despite heavy fire directed at his own aircraft.
Both Kiowas continued to bombard enemy positions until, during the final engagement, a rocket from the lead aircraft ignited a secondary explosion, defeating the enemy ambush.
Each pilot was recognized for demonstrating uncommon valor, selflessness and composure under fire, neutralizing a complex attack on a disabled Afghan convoy, while destroying 10 enemy fighters in one of the most violent areas in Afghanistan, saving the lives of the Afghan soldiers below.
Editor’s Note: Eric Pahon is a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army and serves with 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs.