A US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft pilot received a prestigious award recently for his role in a dangerous rescue mission 10 years ago in Afghanistan, the Air Force said in a statement.
Lt. Col. Mike “Vago” Hilkert, a pilot with the 303rd Fighter Squadron, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross last month for heroism during what has been described as “one of the most intense combat rescue missions of the Afghanistan war.”
During that six-hour fight on April 23, 2011, Hilkert not only coordinated the warfighting efforts of 21 aircraft over dozens of frequencies, but he also intentionally put himself and his plane in harm’s way repeatedly to draw enemy fire away from rescue helicopters.
The Air Force said Hilkert also helped save the lives of more than 30 people.
In the early hours of the day, when it was still dark, two Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters carrying pararescuemen were sent out to respond to a downed Army helicopter.