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Airmen receive Distinguished Flying Cross
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, 3rd Air Force commander, awards Capt. John Frederick, 56th Rescue Squadron pilot, the Distinguished Flying Cross in the Strike Eagle Complex on June 23, 2011. Captain Frederick and Tech. Sgt. Patrick Ledbetter, 56th RQS flight engineer, received the decoration for their actions in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Cory Payne)
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Distinguished Flying Crosses awarded to rescue Airmen

Posted 6/24/2011   Updated 6/24/2011 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman David Dobrydney
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/24/2011 - ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Two Airmen from the 56th Rescue Squadron were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross at the Strike Eagle Complex on June 23, 2011.

Capt. John Frederick, 56th Rescue Squadron pilot, and Tech. Sgt. Patrick Ledbetter, 56th RQS flight engineer, were decorated for their heroic efforts while deployed to Afghanistan.

The two decorations were presented by Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, 3rd Air Force commander.

"It makes me really proud to give such a prestigious award," said General Gorenc. "These are two great stories."

On May 4, 2010, Captain Frederick flew a medical evacuation mission to an ambush site in the Tagab Valley, Afghanistan, where wounded Soldiers required evacuation. In addition to heavy enemy fire, which prevented marking of the landing site, thunderstorms reduced visibility near the landing zone to one mile.

Despite these hazards and with the minimum necessary amount of fuel, Captain Frederick landed the aircraft and the first wounded Soldier was extracted in less than 30 seconds. Captain Frederick then used his aircraft as a blocking force to protect his trail aircraft as it landed to extract the other wounded Soldier.

Having rescued the Soldiers, Captain Frederick diverted his formation to the nearest base with medical facilities to expedite care.

"It's a huge honor," said Captain Frederick, who made special mention of how he as a pilot works as a team with the flight engineer and gunner. "It's nice to receive recognition from the community."

Sergeant Ledbetter earned his decoration for actions as an HH-60 Pave Hawk flight engineer Dec. 28, 2009, near Nad e Ali, Afghanistan. That night, Sergeant Ledbetter was part of a task force sent to rescue one casualty which had placed 160 British soldiers in jeopardy. On the first rescue attempt, insurgents ambushed Sergeant Ledbetter's aircraft. Sergeant Ledbetter's precise directions allowed the other aircraft to safely avoid the incoming fire.

After the threat was neutralized, Sergeant Ledbetter volunteered to re-enter the engagement zone. On the second attempt, the wrong landing field was marked; however, Sergeant Ledbetter recognized this and called for an immediate go around.

As they approached the correct field, enemy fire came within feet of Sergeant Ledbetter's aircraft, causing the attempt to be aborted. During evasive maneuvering, the pilots lost sight of their flight lead. Sergeant Ledbetter searched and was the first to re-acquire his wingman, then directed the rejoin of the aircraft, preventing a mid-air collision.

When asked if he was willing to make a third rescue attempt, Sergeant Ledbetter firmly agreed. On the third and final rescue attempt, the casualty and one other soldier were successfully rescued, enabling the British ground unit to complete their mission.

"I feel very humbled to receive this," said Sergeant Ledbetter of his decoration, "because it was part of a crew to do this. A team from maintenance to ops to intel to get the mission done."

7/19/2011 2:50:08 PM ET
Were there any PJs on these missions
James Thede, NAFB
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