YUMA, Ariz. (1/30/2011) -- Capt. Daniel Fiust, a Marine Attack
Squadron 513 AV-8B pilot and a native of San Carlos, Calif., was
awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his tactical ingenuity while
serving as the air officer for 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment,
in Afghanistan from Jan. 1, 2011, to Sept. 1, 2011.
Capt. Daniel Fiust, a Marine Attack Squadron 513 AV-8B Harrier pilot
and a native of San Carlos, Calif., receives the Bronze Star Medal
from Lt. Col. Samuel Smith, the VMA-513 commanding officer, at the
squadron hangar at MCAS Yuma, Jan. 16, 2012. Fiust received the
award for the tactical ingenuity he displayed while serving as the
the air officer and a forward air controller for 3rd Battalion, 4th
Marine Regiment. Photo by USMC Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison
"I just feel like I was doing my job," said Fiust. "The battalion had a
lot of amazing Marines that did a lot more important stuff than I
did. They were in a lot more dangerous situations than I was."
A battalion air officer acts as a liaison for aviation squadrons
supporting ground Marines, directing and dispersing air assets
across the battalion's area of operations. The air officer is the
senior forward air controller in a battalion. His responsibilities
range anywhere from air strikes to airborne medical evacuations.
Fiust supervised the battalion's forward air controllers and
enlisted joint terminal attack controllers, who patrol with their
squads and protect them by calling in air strikes. On a daily basis,
Fiust heard the pilots of both rotary- and fixed-wing assets,
including his own squadron.
"The main close air support we
got was from 513 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267,"
said Fiust. "It
was great to get fire support from the Nightmares."
Being the single air officer in the Upper Hereshk and
Sangin Valleys, areas with notably high enemy activity,
Fiust had his hands full throughout the deployment, though
that didn't hamper his talent for improvisation.
key example of Fiust's
coordination skills showed when a company of infantrymen
expended all machinegun ammunition attempting to defeat
their still-firing adversaries. Fiust made the call of
resupplying the company with attack helicopters, which
resulted in their victory.
highlighting the importance of an air officer is when Fiust,
after processing surveillance information, made a call that
resulted in the destruction of an enemy sniper team with a
history of aggressing installations and patrols.
Fiust, for his part, regards his responsibilities more
crucial than his victories.
"Training the tactical
air control party in the battalion is probably the most
important thing in preparing battalion joint terminal attack
controllers and other forward air controllers for combat,"
he said of the men who patrol with their squads and protect
them by calling in air strikes.
Soon enough, the
F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter will be fulfilling
its role of close air support, but the only thing changing
in the game is the platform used.
"We still have
Marine pilots," Fiust said. "They're still going to have the
same attitude toward supporting the Marines on the ground."
After being on the ground for so long, the bronze
star recipient has one thing on his mind.
I'm just focusing on getting back into flying and getting
proficient again at being an attack pilot," Fiust said.
By USMC Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma
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