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Marine helo pilot earns DFC from British allies

Marine helo pilot earns Distinguished Flying Cross from grateful Brits

Feb. 22, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Capt. Brian Jordan receives the British Distinguished Flying Cross from British Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott. Jordan, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, braved enemy fire to rescue two British service members.
Capt. Brian Jordan receives the British Distinguished Flying Cross from British Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott. Jordan, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, braved enemy fire to rescue two British service members. (Courtesy of the British Embassy)
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A pilot from Camp Pendleton, Calif., has become just the second Marine aviator since World War II to receive the British Distinguished Flying Cross.

Capt. Brian Jordan, who deployed to Afghanistan with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 in 2012, is credited with piloting through a hail of enemy fire to save the lives of two British soldiers gravely injured in a blast from an improvised explosive device. For his gallantry and heroism, Jordan received the award from Sir Peter Westmacott, the British ambassador to the U.S., during a Feb. 12 ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.

On June 21, 2012,Jordan and his UH-1Y Venom crew were called in to provide reconnaissance and fire support for a unit of the British Grenadier Guards, who were locked in vicious fighting with insurgents in Helmand province. The unit had been pinned down and the Marines were tasked with helping to repel enemy forces and provide overwatch as soldiers moved from building to building.

After having been on station for more than 40 minutes, with ammunition mostly expended and the helo running low on fuel, the call was made to head back to Camp Bastion, the main base of air operations in Regional Command Southwest.

“By then we had less than five minutes remaining on station and had to push back,” Jordan said. “They were happy with that. But about a minute went by when we saw an explosion. We immediately alerted the section lead something was not right.”

One of the British soldiers had stepped on an IED.

“I remember the [joint tactical air controller] saying over the radio, ‘Man down, man down, request immediate Medevac,’ ” Jordan said in a Marine news release. “One of the guardsmen ... had lost a limb and was going into shock.”

A second British soldier was seriously injured in the blast.

“We started pushing information to higher to get medevac platforms airborne, but it would take them more than 30 minutes,” he told Marine Corps Times. “We couldn’t cover the time on station while they came out and the JTAC started letting us know the importance of the situation, saying his man will not survive unless we get him out immediately.”

Jordan and his crew came to a consensus that they could pick up the injured Brits and were on the ground in less than a minute. Another aircraft in the squad, an AH-1Z Viper, laid down cover fire.

Jordan set down between the British and enemy forces to pick up the casualties. He was about 20 meters away from the friendlies and 200 meters from enemy.

“Taking fire was the last thing on all our minds as we were trying to get in,” Jordan said. “Honestly, we were just thinking about getting down safely and making sure we made the landing the first time due to our low fuel. We told them this was our one shot to make this happen.”

While Jordan was the only member of his crew recognized by the British military, he credits his crew with the success. His aircrew included Capt. Joshua Miller, Gunnery Sgt. Andrew Bond, Staff Sgt. Steven Seay and Cpl. Joshua Martinez, who helped prepare the helicopter to transport the casualties and care for them en route. Seay and Bond are both search-and-rescue qualified.

“The great thing about the Huey is the team aspect of flying — everybody has an important role,” Jordan said. “When we came in my co-pilot was flying, I was putting information in and making calls, the crew chiefs were setting up the cabin and manning the guns. As soon as we were on the deck, the crew chiefs immediately started caring for the casualties, manning the guns, making sure everything was safe on the egress.”

Jordan also credits Lt. Col. Stephen Lightfoot and Capt. Frank Jublonski, the AH-1Z pilots who provided cover fire and support for the evacuation.

Jordan will soon transfer to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, also at Camp Pendleton, where he will instruct newly commissioned pilots. He said he will use the experience to stress to his students the importance of resource management, listening to your crew and letting everybody have input.■

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