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Lt. Col. James H. Bradley, Jr., commander of the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, receives the Silver Star for his actions during an operation east of Balad, Iraq on Jan. 16, 2008. Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling awarded the medals during a ceremony at Contingency Operating Base Speicher on June 14.

Lt. Col. James H. Bradley, Jr., commander of the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, receives the Silver Star for his actions during an operation east of Balad, Iraq on Jan. 16, 2008. Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling awarded the medals during a ceremony at Contingency Operating Base Speicher on June 14. (Enrique T. Vasquez / Courtesy US Army)

Lt. Col. James H. Bradley, Jr., commander of the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, receives the Silver Star for his actions during an operation east of Balad, Iraq on Jan. 16, 2008. Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling awarded the medals during a ceremony at Contingency Operating Base Speicher on June 14.

Lt. Col. James H. Bradley, Jr., commander of the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, receives the Silver Star for his actions during an operation east of Balad, Iraq on Jan. 16, 2008. Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling awarded the medals during a ceremony at Contingency Operating Base Speicher on June 14. (Enrique T. Vasquez / Courtesy US Army)

Spc. Kenneth Steinmetz, a door gunner with Company B, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, receives the Air Medal with “V” Device during a ceremony on June 14.

Spc. Kenneth Steinmetz, a door gunner with Company B, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, receives the Air Medal with “V” Device during a ceremony on June 14. (Enrique T. Vasquez / Courtesy US Army)

A pair of Army helicopter crews have been awarded a series of medals — including a Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and Army Air Medals with Valor — for their actions during an air assault near Balad, Iraq in January.

Ground troops that the pair of crews inserted had been ambushed, with the fighting in such close quarters that Apache gunships could not be called in for support. So, the Black Hawk crew members took matters into their own hands.

They conducted gun runs to within 100 meters of the enemy positions, firing all their ammunition while taking rounds to the airframes. When they ran out of ammunition, they continued their slow runs over the enemy position, to draw fire and allow the ground troops to regroup and gather their wounded.

The medals were awarded last week at a ceremony on the U.S. base near Tikrit.

"Let me tell you, I’ve seen the overhead film of the fight, and I walked the ground of the fight, and had it not been for those two air crews, there would have been several more memories of soldiers who didn’t make it through that day," Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, the commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, was quoted as saying during the ceremony.

Those receiving medals were:

Lt. Col. James H. Bradley Jr., commander of the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, who earned a Silver Star;

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lyndle Ratliff, a Black Hawk commander, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross;

Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Howe, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joseph Henry, Sgt. Paul Perdock, Sgt. Fredrick Benuzzi, Spc. Kenneth Steinmetz and Spc. Jacod Norotsky, who all received Army Air Medals with Valor.

"As the fight progressed, [the crews] leapt into the close fight, again pouring machine-gun fire into the enemy positions," according to an Army write-up of the action. "Bradley and his crew made three deliberately slow passes under withering direct fire, expending all his ammunition and killing or injuring most of the enemy in their ambush point.

"The two teams remained over the besieged troops, exposing their aircrafts, even though the door gunners were out of ammunition. The teams made low passes in order to draw enemy fire away from the reaction force soldiers."

"When you talk about the heroism of the people we just awarded, it’s just unbelievable," Hertling was quoted saying. "As I walked through that line, and looked in the eyes of each one of these soldiers, all I saw was humility."


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