Apache Pilot Rewarded For Bravery
A British Amy pilot from Wattisham in Suffolk is to receive the Air Force Cross for his "selflessness and extraordinary professionalism" in piloting his Apache helicopter in two casualty rescue missions in Afghanistan.
32-year-old Captain Steven Jones an Apache pilot with the Army Air Corps, was flying his helicopter back to their base after a day providing protective air cover for ground troops in Afghanistan in December 2010 when he heard a radio call for assistance.
An infantry patrol had struck an IED, killing one soldier and seriously wounding several others. The explosion's blast had also disabled the soldiers' radios - except the one that communicates with aircraft. Only helicopters in the air on the right frequency would be able to hear the transmission. To be of assistance to the wounded soldiers, Steven needed to keep his Apache in the air and relay their messages for urgent help. Steven's helicopter, however, was dangerously low on fuel - the reason why he was returning to his base.
The decision was an easy one to make says Steven: "You can never leave a man behind. Yes we were low on fuel but that doesn't matter where there are lives at risk. "
Steven managed to keep the Apache in the air, and was able to send and receive radio signals from the soldiers on the ground, until an emergency response helicopter was able to reach the injured and another helicopter could be raised and take over his watch. When he eventually landed the helicopter, the fuel gage was registering the lowest the Apache craft have ever run on, dangerously below the safe levels for flight.
His citation reads: "This single act enabled a swift response to a situation that would otherwise have been delayed demonstrating his selfless dedication to the support of ground forces."
This was not the only incident when Steven literally flew to the aid of wounded soldiers. Two weeks previously he had also been called to assist in a daring night casualty evacuation of a critically wounded soldier.
For Steven, who flew a further 20 missions that month, it was all part of a day's work.
"You don't think about it at the time," he explains. "It's not that it isn't significant because everything is significant out there because everything impacts on someone else's life, but you have to put it in your backpack and move on to the next day.
Steven is one of only two military personnel to receive the Air Force Cross in the latest operational honours and awards list, which includes 140 personnel. The awards are for actions roughly during the period October 1 2010, to March 31 2011 on Operation HERRICK 13.