NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (July 11, 2012 - AFNS) -
Staff Sgt. Justin Tite, 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron
aerial gunner, received the Air Force Distinguished Flying
Cross with valor here, July 9.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Bill Hyatt, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, presents the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor to Staff Sgt. Justin Tite, 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron aerial gunner, July 9, 2012, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Tite received the prestigious medal for life saving combat operations in Afghanistan where he identified and eliminated enemy combatants, enabling the rescue of injured soldiers. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William P. Coleman
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Tite, 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron aerial gunner, poses next to an M2 .50 caliber machinegun on a HH-60 Pave Hawk April 4, 2012 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Tite was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for engaging the enemy during a six-hour-long sortie which resulted in the life-saving rescue of two soldiers and recovery of another from the battlefield. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Hughes
Maj. Gen. Bill Hyatt,
U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, presented the
decoration to Tite during a ceremony with friends, family
and members of the Nellis rescue community present.
On April 23, 2011, Tite was an aerial gunner aboard the lead
HH-60 helicopter in a two-aircraft flight, call sign Pedro
His flight was tasked to rescue two downed Army
aircraft crew members in enemy territory about 25 miles east
of Bagram, Afghanistan. Tite's crew reached the crash site
as dawn was breaking, and conducted the first pararescue
Just after inserting a second
pararescue team, the flight's second helicopter, Pedro 84,
was engaged by enemy fire that injured a crew member and
damaged the aircraft. Pedro 84 was forced to return to base.
Tite covered their egress and supported ground teams
with close air support as they became pinned down by
intensifying enemy fire. On one pass, Tite spotted enemy
units attacking his teams. He returned fire, suppressing
them and killing at least one insurgent. He continued as
Pedro 84 returned to the fight and recovery attempts
Upon Pedro 84's return, its crew attempted
to hoist out one of the downed crew members again. However,
the helicopter immediately drew heavy fire, forcing them to
shear their rescue harness to clear the hail of rounds
coming at them. Simultaneously, Pedro 83 took fire, taking
enough damage to also force them to return to base for a
During this round trip, Army ground
troops in the area joined the engagement. Moments after
powering up the spare, Pedro 83 received the call that one
of the ground troops had been severely injured and also
Pedro 83 returned to battle and began
a hover extraction of the original downed crew member and the
In close range of enemy ground fire, Tite's aircraft was severely damaged again, but Tite
continued to battle despite multiple aircraft emergencies.
Tite engaged an entrenched enemy, who came as close as
100 meters, through four additional exchanges of intense
fire as the recovery continued.
actions during the six-hour-long sortie resulted in the
life-saving rescue of two soldiers and the recovery of
another from the field of battle.
"In all honesty,
I'm just humbled to get this," Tite said. "Just to be put
into that category is honestly just amazing, to say the
least. I don't take this award necessarily [because] of just
what I've done. I think it's more or less for the [rescue]
community itself. There are people out there right now doing
the same exact missions day in and day out - doing the 24
hour operations in Afghanistan. So, I think this award goes
out to everyone in our community."
Flying Cross was established in the Air Corps Act by
Congress on July 2, 1926. According to the law's text, award
is for any person, while serving in any capacity with the
Air Corps of the Army of the United States, including the
National Guard and the Organized Reserves, or with the
United States Navy, since the 6th day of April 1917, has
distinguished, or who, after the approval of this Act,
distinguishes himself by heroism or extraordinary
achievement while participating in an aerial flight.
Tite said he has been thinking of and talking to one of his
crew members who was injured on the flight.
one of your own get injured on a mission like that - it
really hits home," Tite said. "It was something we had to
adjust to - fight on the fly. We'd never had an individual,
on one of my own missions at least, get hurt during the
actual extraction of another individual. Once it actually
hits home, it's just a little bit different."
Technical Sgt. Jim Davis was the flight engineer on the
Pedro 84 flight who was shot during the mission. Tite said
Davis was hit in the leg just after the rescue team was
deployed and Davis had brought the hoist up.
mentor to a lot of us. I don't believe he's able to fly any
more, but he's in good spirits and I know he's very grateful
-- he loves the mission that we do. I know - it sucks the
way that it went down, but he's still a great part of our
culture and our heritage of the mission that we do. He's a
good guy and he'll always be a part of our community, one
way or another."
Tite said the rescue community will
always be around to help others even if it means risking
"[To the] people who don't understand
that there are people who go out there and do this, I would
just like to say that I think that the combat search and
rescue community is a great career field to join," Tite
said. "I couldn't be happier in another field than I am with
the rescue community."
"The motto for the rescue
community is 'that others may live' and I think that every
individual in the rescue community truly lives by that
motto," he said.
By USAF Senior Airman Jack Sanders
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
See video with Staff Sgt. Justin Tite's comments
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