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Distinguished Flying Cross Recipient
Brian M. Kennedy

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Brian M. Kennedy -Distinguished Flying Cross Recipient Semper Fidelis, the Latin phrase which means ‘always faithful,' is the well known Marine Corps motto, and these words aptly describe Marine Lt. Col. Brian M. Kennedy, an AH-1W Cobra helicopter pilot. He has faithfully demonstrated his courage, honor, and continued commitment for his country and his brotherhood for the past 19 years.

From March 20, 2003 to April 14, 2003, he distinguished himself while heroically leading his flight against Iraqi forces from the opening night of hostilities through the fall of organized Iraqi forces in Tikrit.

Kennedy, who was a primary AH-1W flight leader, flew more than 71 combat missions, most of which were flown at night and during the harshest of conditions to support I Marine Expeditionary Force's rapid advance into Baghdad, Iraq.

On March 20, he led his flight in degraded weather conditions and at extreme risk from enemy forces along the Safwan Hill border providing the first fires of the war by prepping a landing zone. Although a CH-46E assault aircraft with recon teams was prepared to fast rope in, they could not approach the zone because of poor visibility. Nevertheless, Kennedy successfully engaged
known Iraqi defensive positions and maneuvered his second section to engage Iraqi scout vehicles on the north side of Safwan Hill.

Three days later, Kennedy began leading his section through a battlefield in the vicinity of the Al Rumaylah oil field that was ringed with sporadic air defense artillery and small arms fire. Visibility was degraded because of oil smoke and the fires associated with burning Iraqi equipment. This mission, that required 12 flying hours for Kennedy, concluded the evening of March 25.

Conducting close air support missions in support of the British 7th Armored Brigade in Al Basra on March 28, Kennedy's section successfully engaged numerous Iraqi units, which proved critical to the maneuver of British forces in their bid for the city. He guided his section through intense air defense artillery and small arms fire with Iraqi forces at minimum range due to reduced visibility until the mission was accomplished.

Kennedy flew repeated missions at low altitudes and slow airspeeds to maintain ground and air contact in marginal weather. Many of his fellow servicemen have credited Kennedy's flight with decimating eight Iraqi artillery positions and an enormous artillery stash, which was critical to the Special Republican Guard's ability to sustain their fight.

The latter was accomplished on April 5 when his team was forced to fly below 300 feet due to oil smoke with 500 foot high-tension lines in the area. Kennedy persevered with several successful strikes. Unbeknownst to him at the time, his flight destroyed the remaining ballistic missile system which had the capability of delivering weapons of mass destruction against Allied Forces in Kuwait.

Never thinking about self before duty, Kennedy has often moved his aircraft to suppress the enemy's fire to allow other helicopters and aircraft to continue on uninterrupted target runs.

He described his deployment and missions this way. “I am an ordinary Marine who served in extraordinary circumstances supporting extraordinary Marines on the ground who were often nose to nose with the enemy.”

For his superb airmanship, inspiring courage, leadership, and loyal devotion to duty in the face of hazardous flying conditions, Kennedy was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.

Semper Fi!

Information and Photo and information courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps / DOD

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