Maj. Tyler Schultz and Capt. Samantha Harvey were awarded the medals for their actions during a close air support mission against enemy fighters dispatched by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to attack members of Operation Inherent Resolve.
“We’re there to support, protect and bring our ground forces home,” Schultz said.
The call first came from an American joint terminal attack controller, who reported that his team was surrounded and under direct fire from ISIS fighters.
Schultz and Harvey then executed multiple “gun runs” against an enemy force that had pinned down the American ground team.
First, the two pilots located the friendly forces and began to assess the enemy’s coordinated attack.
“Talking with the JTAC — I learned what fear sounds like,” Harvey said. “All that mattered was he needed us at that moment.”
While Schultz executed four strafe runs against the enemy fighters, Harvey descended in order to conduct a show of force maneuver to deter further attacks.
“It was dark, but I had a job to do,” Harvey said. “I thought to myself, this is the moment that I’ve been training for.”
The team’s coordination and quick response under pressure was credited with saving more than 50 Americans.
Their award ceremony was held on March 2 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, where the airmen are stationed.
Gen. Mike Homes, commander of Air Combat Command, presented the awards to the two pilots from the 354th Fighter Squadron.
The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to officers and enlisted members of the U.S. military who have distinguished themselves in combat by heroism or extraordinary achievement in flight, according to the Air Force.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.