Valor Friday

| February 7, 2020


Westland Lynx

Today Mason’s Valor Friday recognizes two USMC Helo Pilots who had the honor of receiving medals for their valor not only from the the United Sates, but our allies for exemplary bravery in the face of the enemy. These men and their crews risked all to act as angels of mercy in hot combat, and this old SAR dog stands in awe of their bravery.

Mason.

One thing I always find interesting in my studies of military history are the instances where men and women are awarded medals from a friendly nation. There’s a sizable list of Australian, Canadian, and British men who received American medals such as the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, and Silver Star for actions during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Similarly, there are quite a few instances of Americans receiving awards from allied countries. The most common are the awards given by an ally to all American service personnel involved in a war, the South Vietnamese Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm for the Vietnam war and the Kuwaiti and Saudi Kuwaiti Liberation Medals.

Most of the individual medals and honors afforded to American service members since WWII are usually given to flag officers after they serve in a joint environment. For example, among other foreign awards, the previous three commanders of US European Command were all recipients of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. However there are occasions in which a foreign country will award a medal for combat bravery to an American. Since WWII, those instances are rare to say the least. So today’s article will discuss two such recent and noteworthy instances.

US Marine Naval Aviator Major William Chesarek was sent to the UK as part of a pilot exchange program in 2005. Trained by the Marines as a AH-1W Super Cobra pilot, in the UK he learned to fly the Augusta Westland Lynx, a multi-role utility helicopter similar to our Black Hawk or Huey. In 2006 when his host squadron, the 847 Naval Air Squadron, deployed to Basra, Iraq, he joined them.

It was there on June 10, 2006 that Chesarek was flying near Amarah, Iraq. Serving as a radio communications relay for a company-sized force on the ground involved in a night search operation, he overheard that a vehicle being used by the ground troops had become disabled. The vehicle became a focal point for a crowd of insurgents who were attacking it with small arms fire.

Chesarek flew his helicopter in low over the crowd, attempting to scare them and disperse the crowd. It didn’t work. Units on the ground advised that instead he had become the focus of their attacks and that a rocket propelled grenade had just missed his aircraft’s tail boom.

Instead of leaving the area, Chesarek, who had been trained as an airborne forward air controller, used his skills to coordinate and direct fixed wing aircraft onto the enemy forces, finally breaking the attack.

Chesarek knew that a soldier on the ground, Colour Sergeant Ian Page, had become a casualty and had been shot in the head. Being the only helicopter in the area, he elected to land and evacuate the man, despite his version of the Lynx not being set up for medevac.

Landing near the wounded man, Chesarek’s door gunner and another crew member jumped out and loaded the critically wounded colour sergeant aboard the aircraft. In an amazing display of personal courage, the second crewman elected to remain behind with the ground troops so the helicopter didn’t fly overweight. Chesarek’s decision to land in the hostile fire zone and load C/Sgt Page aboard likely saved the man’s life. He was able to make a full recovery.

Chesarek’s bravery under fire in the air warranted attention from the Queen of the United Kingdom herself. Nine months after the night of his action, Chesarek was bowing before the Queen at Buckingham Palace as she placed the UK’s third-highest award for aerial combat bravery on his chest. He was the first American serviceman to receive the UK Distinguished Flying Cross since World War II. The UK DFC is roughly equivalent to the American Silver Star or DFC w/ “V”.

Brit DFC

Chesarek, the picture of humility, spoke only of the men he lost and those he served with upon receiving the medal;

“I am greatly honored and would like to accept this prestigious award for 847 NAS in memory of Lt. Cmdr. Darren Chapman (Royal Navy), Capt. David Dobson (Army Air Corps), and Marine Paul Collins (Royal Marines), who were killed in action over Basrah in May 2006. The awarded actions were only possible due to the combined effort of my combat crew; Lt. David Williams (Royal Navy) and Lance Cpl. Max Carter (Royal Marines). My greatest sense of achievement that day is in knowing the ground troops all made it home.”

Chesarek continues to serve in the USMC, alongside his wife, a Navy nurse. He is currently a lieutenant colonel and is the Deputy Director of the Marine Corps University’s Expeditionary Warfare School. At the EWSs website his bio lists, unsurprisingly, one of his interests as “Warfighting”. His other awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, at least two awards of the Air Medal for individual combat bravery (w/ “V”), at least 20 strike/flight awards of the Air Medal, and a Navy Presidential Unit Citation. He also wears the somewhat unusual Navy Arctic Service Ribbon.

Six years later, almost to the day, Captain Brian Jordan of the USMC was flying his UH-1Y Venom over Afghanistan. They were providing air support to a British Army unit, the Grenadier Guards.

UH-1Y Venom

Serving as overwatch, Jordan and his crew had spent 40 minutes providing aerial observations and expended most of their ordnance providing close air support to suppress an enemy attack. Low on fuel, Jordan was preparing to head back to Camp Bastion when they saw an explosion on the ground. They heard a frantic call from the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) on the ground, “Man Down, man down, request immediate MEDEVAC!”

The injured soldier had stepped on an IED. He’d lost a limb and was going into shock. Jordan and his crew were preparing an urgent request for a medevac to higher headquarters when they were notified that the soldier couldn’t wait and wasn’t going to make it. Jordan had calculated that it would take 30 minutes before another helicopter could arrive on station.

Taking a quick survey of his crew, who were all willing to land to retrieve the critically wounded man, Jordan landed his Super Huey near the British troops, who were still actively being engaged by insurgents.

Landing his chopper between the friendly and enemy troops, Jordan said it felt like they were on the ground an eternity but were actually down for less than a minute.

Loading the wounded man and another wounded comrade aboard their aircraft, Jordan took off and flew at maximum speed back to Bastion, worried constantly that their low fuel would finally run out.

Thanks to Captain Jordan’s heroic efforts both British Guards survived. Jordan didn’t know the fate of the two men or even have a chance to meet them. He continued flying missions that day and many more to come.

Jordan’s actions on June 12, 2012 earned him an Air Medal w/”V” for his bravery. The British awarded him their Distinguished Flying Cross at the Embassy in Washington, D.C. Present during the award ceremony was Lieutenant Colonel William Chesarek, the only other Marine recipient of the British DFC on active duty. Jordan’s other awards and decorations include another individual award of the Air Medal, at least six strike/flight awards of the Air Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

DFC with “V” Device

I’m unable to locate if Jordan is still a Marine and if he is what his current rank and assignment are. As of 2014 he was preparing to serve as a UH-1Y flight instructor.

Hand Salute. Ready, two!
Thanks again, Mason.

Category: Guest Post, Marines, Valor

Comments (7)

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  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    Surprised the chopper can get off the ground with the extry weight of this Warrior’s Big Brass Ones.

    BZ Marine! Job(s) Well Done! Hand Salute…Ready…Two!

  2. ninja says:

    As always, Thank You for sharing this with us, Mason and AW1Ed for posting.

    Here is a nice picture of Captain Brian Jordan:

    https://www.defense.gov/observe/photo-gallery/igphoto/2001103461/

    Here is a nice picture of Major William Chesarek being honored by Queen Elizabeth:

    https://www.stripes.com/news/queen-elizabeth-honors-u-s-marine-helicopter-pilot-1.61886

    Salute!

  3. Jay says:

    Per Marine ONLINE, he is now MAJOR Brian Jordan, serving as an Air Ops Officer.

  4. Dustoff says:

    BZ! Fun Fact, The Lynx is capable of being looped and can also roll. ( And no, your old pal Dustoff will not have his ass on board is someone tries to pull those particular stunts).

    • AW1Ed says:

      And not with AWANEd in the back, either! The Brits also have a unique system for getting the Lynx back aboard ship in heavy weather- they have a sort of extendable claw that shoots down from the fusalage and grips a steel grid on the ships deck, and pulls the bird down. The pilots can then go negative thrust on the collective, forcing the helo to stay on the deck. These techniques seem extreme until one spends some quality time in the North Sea in winter.

  5. Mick says:

    Well done, Marine Corps Aviators!

  6. Outcast says:

    AW1ED, have Mason check on Bud Day and “Misty” and see if that would qualify for the column.