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‘I’ve always wanted to serve’

Capt. Brian Jordan and Lt. Col. William Chesarek , helicopter pilots, are the only two Marines to receive the British Distinguished Flying Cross since World War II. The award's precedence is equal to the Silver Star Medal.

WASHINGTON — Since the end of World War II, only two Americans have received Britain’s Distinguished Flying Cross. Marine Capt. Brian Jordan is one of them.

Jordan, 29, who was awarded the cross for his actions in Afghanistan, grew up in a military family. He was raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, where his father was a Navy flight instructor.

“I’d always see him flying overhead. And when I was playing soccer or something like that, he’d [fly by and] do a little wing rock,” he recalled. “That dream for flying and that love for flying and of being in the air started back then.”

Between his junior and senior years in college, Jordan completed Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, and he was commissioned in 2006.

“I’ve always wanted to serve my country. … I feel that if anybody gets an opportunity to do it, they should do it,” he said.

On June 21, 2012, just a few weeks into his deployment to Afghanistan with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, Jordan and his UH-1Y Venom flight crew were tasked with providing reconnaissance and close air support to the British Grenadier Guards, who were on patrol in volatile Helmand province.

When the Brits got pinned down by enemy fire, Jordan and his crew unleashed their weaponry against the Taliban to suppress their attack. Running low on fuel, they were about to head back to their base at Camp Bastion, until Jordan saw an explosion on the ground.

“Man down, man down, request immediate medevac,” they heard the British joint tactical air controller on the ground shout over the radio.

One of the guardsmen had stepped on an improvised explosive device. The soldier had lost a limb and was going into shock. Another guardsman hit by the blast was also seriously wounded.

Jordan and his crew calculated it would take about 30 minutes for another aircraft to come and pick up the wounded men. The air controller suggested the most severely wounded guardsman wouldn’t survive that long.

Even though their aircraft was running low on fuel and they had only 90 seconds before they needed to head back to Bastion, Jordan and his crew went into the kill zone, hoping they wouldn’t land on an IED.

“I looked at the time, I looked at the fuel [and then] I looked at the crew. And I said, ‘Hey guys…we have the capability. Is everybody comfortable?’ Everybody said yes, they’re comfortable. I said, ‘Good, because we’re going down to pick them up,’ ” Jordan recalled.

Braving heavy enemy fire, Jordan landed the bird, whose call sign was Righteous, near the wounded guardsmen. For about 10 seconds, the crew was on the ground in no man’s land between the Taliban and the bulk of the British soldiers, with the enemy shooting at them from a mere 250 meters away. The crew loaded the two wounded Brits.

“It kind of like went slow mo’. . . ‘Is everybody on? Everybody’s on. Let’s get out of here now.’ And that’s kind of what went through my head,” Jordan said.

He got Righteous and its crew out of there quickly. When the helicopter landed at Bastion, the wounded soldiers were received by emergency medical personnel. The medevac aircraft that had been dispatched to rescue the guardsmen had only just taken off when Jordan touched down.

Both of the British soldiers survived. For his bravery and lifesaving efforts, Jordan was presented Britain’s Distinguished Flying Cross on Feb. 12, 2014, by UK Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, Jordan may not get to wear his British DFC again because Marine Corps regulations prohibit the wearing of foreign medals except under rare circumstances. In another bureaucratic twist, he wasn’t given a copy of his award citation after it was read to him.

It is British government policy that copies of such citations aren’t made available to medal recipients until 30 years later, British officials told Jordan at the ceremony. They didn’t explain to him the rationale behind the policy.

“I wasn’t going to ask any questions. I was just honestly completely humbled to be there,” he said.

Jordan said family of the soldiers he rescued recently contacted him after they read a news story about the medal. They wanted to thank him.

“If it wasn’t for you and your crew, then we wouldn’t be having our first child,” a wife of one of the soldiers told him, Jordan said.

Jordan is now an instructor at Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303 at Camp Pendleton, California, where he teaches newly commissioned aviators to operate the Venom.

harper.jon@stripes.com
Twitter: @JHarperStripes

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