A-10C pilot earns top flying award for combat successes in Afghanistan

Maj. Kyle Adkison, an A-10C Thunderbolt II test pilot with the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron, accepted the Distinguished Flying Cross Tuesday at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for his 2019 combat achievements in Afghanistan.
Adkison and his wingman, Capt. Erin Fullam, drove off enemy forces -- likely Taliban fighters -- protecting the positions of friendly forces and keeping members of the US-led military coalition alive, the Air Force said in a news release Wednesday.
The Distinguished Flying Cross is the Pentagon's highest award for exceptional flight performance.
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A harrowing night in Afghanistan earns the A-10 pilot the Distinguished Flying Cross 10 years later
As part of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, Adkison toggled between two radio frequencies to work with separate ground controllers while also providing protection for friendly forces while they secured the area and helping locate enemies in a difficult urban area. He also controlled who flew in and out of surrounding airspace during combat operations and coordinated four firefights, interrupting a surprise grenade attack.
When friendly troops came under fire three times, Adkison coordinated attacks with Army AH-64 Apache helicopters.
The pilot also flew within five meters of coalition forces as he launched punitive attacks to slow the enemy's advance.
"The quality training of the A-10 community and confidence in the excellence of the A-10 weapon system helped us overcome the challenges we faced that day," Adkison said in the press release. "The [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers] were extremely professional and competent, and their composure under fire was crucial in enabling us to do what we did."
An A-10 pilot who makes a daring landing is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross
Afghanistan suffered constant bloodshed in August 2019, two years before the US ended its two-decade war there when negotiations with the Taliban to avoid further violence broke down.
Some 160 people - mostly Taliban militants who were the target of airstrikes - were killed and 50 injured in a single day, August 27, 2019, the BBC said.
The automatic-armed A-10 was one of the most important aircraft in the Afghan war because of its firepower and durability, even as the Air Force tried to phase out the aging planes.
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"You don't have to go far in the A-10 community to find someone with a similar history, many of which have not received recognition," Adkison said in a press release. "The A-10 community is filled with incredible people doing extraordinary things in an extraordinary aircraft, and I'm honored to count myself among those heroes."
Dozens of Airmen who served in the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 also received Distinguished Flying Crosses Monday at the Air Force's largest DFC ceremony to date. Fifty-one DFCs were awarded in a meeting at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.
The Air Force said in October it plans to present 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 12 Bronze Star medals and a Gallant Unit Citation to mobility aviators supporting Operation Allies Refuge.

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