Beale pilot's exploits in Afghanistan earn him Lemay award
By Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 26, 2013
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- One of the most alarming voices United States Air Force pilot's will ever hear is that of a service member needing help in a troops-in-contact situation. Ground troops rely upon pilots to provide vital information, evacuate wounded, and when the time comes, deliver precision ordnance to eliminate enemy targets.
During a fateful day in Afghanistan in April 2012, Capt. Dustin, 427th Reconnaissance Squadron MC-12W mission commander who at the time was a B-1B Lancer pilot, along with his crew of three received calls from two separate Coalition troops-in-contact situations requiring air support.
"We found ourselves in a very difficult situation that day," Dustin said. "Due to the tactical presence exhibited by my crew, we were able to conduct the necessary actions to ensure the troops on the ground were able to make it home safely."
Upon contact with the Joint Terminal Attack Controller at the initial troops-in-contact location, Dustin and his crew received coordinates from the JTAC and employed one Joint Direct Attack Munition on target. Enemy fire ceased and afterwards a battle damage assessment revealed no additional movement in or around the target area.
Soon after the initial engagement had been thwarted, a priority mission was tasked to the aircrew of the bomber.
A quick reaction force consisting of multiple Special Operations units and Afghan troops were under attack in an urban area with minimal support.
The troops were outside a Forward Operating Base in response to a complex insurgent attack on the National Directorate of Security Headquarters when they began receiving heavy fire from a fortified three-story building.
Dustin's aircraft arrived on station and checked in with the JTAC. Heavy enemy fire and limited equipment hindered communications. However, the JTAC was able to relay a potential target building.
"Under intense enemy fire, it is easy to let fear take over and lose situational awareness," said Sean Mitchell, JTAC subject-matter-expert. "Then the 'Sound of Freedom' breaks through the cracks of enemy fire and every warrior on the side of the guardians above is filled with a new sense of bravery."
The lancer crew conducted a thorough scan of the target building and surrounding area to establish patterns of life to include the location of friendly forces.
All friendlies were said to be at least three blocks away from the target. The crew reported vehicles and personnel in the immediate vicinity of the target building appeared to be friendly.
Despite continued pressure to engage the target building, the crew exercised tactical patience and insisted additional target correlation be conducted with ground forces prior to any weapons employment.
"The proper decision is crucial when employing ordnance," Dustin said. "We were in a hairy situation, and the easiest thing to do would have been to release the ordnance especially when the JTAC is under fire, frantic and he's desperately calling for your help. But our job is to remain the calm, cool and collected warriors in the sky."
As the combat endured for an extended period the B-1B began to run low on fuel, but Dustin and his crew simultaneously coordinated refueling while remaining in contact with the JTAC.
"As a crew we had a discussion regarding what actions to take," Dustin said. "We didn't feel comfortable with the initial target. The information we were receiving was contradictory to where we believed the friendly location to be."
Finally after hours of intense combat, a heavy weapons assault upon the building was conducted by the Coalition forces. Thus the B-1B crew was able to positively identify the correct target building.
"My colleagues and I discussed what weapon would be best utilized to prevent collateral damage but still get the job done," Dustin said. "We elected to employ two JDAMs on the target with delayed fusing to mitigate collateral damage and not further endanger the friendly troops in the area."
The crew's persistence for additional target correlation prior to striking the original coordinates ultimately resulted in the saving of dozens of friendly forces in or around the area where weapon effects had been requested.
Within the building multiple insurgents were identified as deceased. A number of weapons, including suicide vests, were also confirmed to be destroyed.
Due to the outstanding performance conducted by Dustin and his crew, they have been named the 2012 Gen. Curtis E. Lemay Outstanding Bomber Aircrew of the Year.
"I'm honored to receive such an esteemed award," Dustin said. "But, the fact that we were able to help our fellow service members complete the mission and get home safely is far more rewarding."