Erickson, a pilot from the 75th Fighter Squadron, was
awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor on
July 11, 2008.
Capt. Brian Erickson, 75th FS chief of mission planning,
earned the medal while deployed to Bagram Air Base,
Afghanistan, for providing ground alert close air support to
a German Provincial Reconstruction Team who was under
nighttime fire from insurgents in a valley of the Hindu-Kush
"I'm extremely impressed with the way Captain Erickson
handled himself out there," said Colonel Kenneth Todorov,
23rd Wing commander, "He provided close air support in
hazardous conditions, with no forward air controller and led
a successful mission with valor."
On Oct. 16,
2006, Captain Erickson and his wingman, who were then part
of the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, received a
short-notice call to provide aerial support to six German
soldiers trapped between two mountain ranges. They were
receiving enemy fire in the form of rocket-propelled
grenades, machine guns, and small-arms fire.
Up until the call, previous flights of
non-tactical aircraft had been unable to help the stranded
PRT due to their location, limited communication
capabilities, and lack of moonlight. Without illumination
from the moon or another source, the pilots' night vision
goggles provided little assistance.
Once he arrived on scene, Captain Erickson determined there
was room for only one aircraft above the mountain tops and
just below the clouds. He assigned the safe altitude above
the clouds to his wingman, who searched for the insurgents'
location with his advanced targeting pod and night vision
As Captain Erickson flew his A-10 deep into the moonless
valley, where the only light on the ground was from
insurgent weapons fire, his wingman flew above to relay
reports about where the weapon bursts were coming from.
Before Capt. Erickson could employ any of his own weapons,
he needed to determine the exact location of the PRT to
avoid friendly fire.
"I initially had my infrared sensor on to pinpoint the
location of the insurgents. The problem with using the
infrared was that every time a rocket-propelled grenade went
off, the glow impeded my ability to navigate the dark
canyon. The whole screen would go white, and I couldn't see
outside my cockpit. The only solution was to turn the
screens off," said Captain Erickson.
After Captain Erickson turned off his infrared sensor, he
continued his low-level runs in search of the PRT. This
proved an even more difficult task because the PRT's
signaling device, an infrared strobe, was malfunctioning,
and the German soldiers, who were untrained in communicating
with aircraft, continued to take harassing enemy fire. The
chaos of the situation was impaired even more by the PRT's
limited proficiency in English. These limitations in
combination with the enemy fire caused the PRT to provide
confusing information on their exact location.
Realizing that time was running out for the PRT, Captain
Erickson released a series of covert illumination flares
only visible through night vision devices. Able to "see", he
used geographic references from the air and ground to narrow
down the PRT's location. During this time, the captain and
his wingman were able to identify a location where they
believed the enemy fire was coming from.
To be sure of the PRT's location, Captain Erickson conducted
a low-altitude show-of-force. He flew between the enemy and
friendly positions at 2,000 feet and deployed pyrotechnic
self-protection flares, which lit the night sky. His hope
was that the enemy would alert to his position and break
their attack on the PRT long enough for his wingman to
search for clues of the enemy's exact position.
"After we located where we thought the insurgents were, I
had my wingman light-up the area with his targeting pod,"
said Captain Erickson. "During this time the weapons-fire
against the Germans was also becoming increasingly accurate,
and the need to bring the situation to a close was becoming
more-and-more imperative. After we were able to determine
that we were, in fact, targeting the insurgents and not the
pinned-down German PRT team, it was time to take action."
With Captain Erickson's wingman marking the enemy's position
with his TGP's infrared pointer, the PRT confirmed the mark
as the enemy fire point of origin. In a single pass, Captain
Erickson employed 240 30-millimeter rounds from the
aircraft's GAU-8 cannon. This completely halted the enemy's
fire and saved the lives of six German soldiers.
Captain Erickson and his wingman remained in the area to
monitor both the friendly and enemy positions until the
Iraqi National Police and International Security Assistance
Force Quick Reaction Force were able to reach and recover
the PRT and bring them to safety.
Captain Erickson credited the success of the operation to
his training, and although he was honored to receive the
Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for "doing the job
he's trained to do", he pointed out a higher honor.
"The real reward was returning those six coalition soldiers
safely to the village they were working at as part of the
PRT team," said Captain Erickson.
provided by USAF 23rd Wing Public Affairs, Moody Air Base,
U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Javier Cruz