Friday, October 7, 2011

Quick thinking earns Nellis Airman the Distinguished Flying Cross

by Senior Airman Michael Charles
Nellis Public Affairs

10/5/2011 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- A Nellis Airman received the Distinguished Flying Cross during the 57th Wing commander's call Sept. 30, 2011, at the base theater on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, 57th Wing commander, presented the medal to U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Hayde, 57th Wing commander's action group chief and an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, for his actions during his recent deployment to Afghanistan.

"It's an honor to receive such a prestigious award in front of my peers," Hayde said. "However, it made me equally happy, if not more, that my wingman, Capt. Sam Chipman, received an Air Medal and was recognized for the great things he did on that mission as well."

The Distinguished Flying Cross was authorized by Section 12 of the Air Corps Act in 1926. President Calvin Coolidge awarded the first Distinguished Flying Cross in 1927. The medal is awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the U.S. armed forces who distinguishes himself or herself by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight in support of operations.

"The only thing that we, as close air support pilots, think about is supporting the guys on the ground," Hayde said. "Sometimes, the word support gets a negative connotation but, for us, the word support is a badge of honor."

During his deployment in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Hayde began a night offensive operation to engage enemy Taliban forces Oct. 29, 2010. While approaching his mission objective, he was notified that an 8,000 foot flight ceiling and inclement weather would prevent the execution of the original mission plan. With little room for error and less than two miles from the Pakistan border, Hayde coordinated with the other aircraft participating in the mission and two joint terminal attack controllers on the ground to develop a new plan to achieve the objectives.

Minutes after deciding on an alternate plan, Hayde led his flight on numerous passes over five possible helicopter landing zones. His aircraft destroyed several improvised explosive devices in nearly zero visibility, allowing a 150-man assault force to land safely. Once the assault force team moved into the nearby city, they came under immediate fire. For the next 35 minutes, Hayde continually tracked U.S. ground forces and provided cover fire. He also coordinated with friendly AH-64 Apaches to deploy 100 rounds and three bombs on enemies who were deeply entrenched in two separate mountaintop locations. Hayde's quick thinking and service-before-self attitude led to the success of the mission and the capture of more than 25,000 pounds of homemade explosives and 40 kilograms of opium.

"Sometimes, getting the opportunity, during what may be the worst day of a Soldier' s life, to provide air support and allow that individual to make it home to his or her family safely, is the most amazing honor you can receive," Hayde said. "I believe the total air power, not just my flight, enabled all the special operations forces to make it home that night."

The award, presented to Hayde for his actions last October, acknowledges his ability to uphold the highest standards and core values of the Air Force, while successfully accomplishing the mission.

Maj. Ryan T. Hayde, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with the 57th Wing, is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross from Brig. Gen. Terrence O'Shaunessy during a commander's call Sept. 30, 2011, in the base theater at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Hayde received the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement during an aerial flight while deployed to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan. He was also awarded the Single Mission Air Medal and the Air Medal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Taylor Worley) Hi-res


Please note: That's the full official story behind an earlier Nellis photo release, already posted on Warthog News on October 5, 2011, and titled A-10C pilot Maj. Ryan T. Hayde is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for Afghanistan mission. Many thanks to Warthog News contributor James O'Rear from the United States for posting his helpful comment to realize this important news article.

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