Valor in Afghanistan honored
RAF LAKENHEATH — Along a corridor in the Strike Eagle Complex here, a series of plywood plaques marked with rows of small black bullets and bombs symbolizes the weapons employed by the 492nd Fighter Squadron in Afghanistan during the summer of 2007.
"It was a busy deployment," said commander Lt. Col. Dave Iverson, referring to the boards and the 915 bombs and 25,000 rounds of ammunition they represent.
Eight of those bombs and about 150 of those rounds were launched by Iverson and weapons system officer Capt. Rob Bird during a mission that earned them the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor recently.
They had been in Afghanistan about a month, flying missions out of Bagram Air Base, when they got a call for close air support in Oruzgan province on June 6.
Iverson and Bird took the lead on a two-aircraft mission bound for two distinct engagements about 10 miles apart. Shortly after reaching their destination, the other plane was called away, leaving Iverson and Bird with two battles to help fight.
The firefight on the ground was growing more intense by the minute, and helicopters were unable to land to evacuate the wounded British and American soldiers at both locations.
"I remember the radio call and it was a British JTAC (Joint Tactical Air Controller) on the ground … and he starts talking us onto a target and we hear: ‘We’re in danger of being overrun,’ " Iverson said. "That just puts it in perspective and takes it to a whole new level. That put some urgency into us to support them as quickly as we could."
They flew back and forth between the two fronts, dropping bombs and firing at the enemy from the sky.
"When everything hits the fan like that, you fall back on your training," said Iverson, 39, an experienced combat pilot who has been flying the F-15 for nearly 15 years.
Bird, 26, agreed, though it was his first deployment and only the second time he had responded to a "troops in contact" situation.
"I was taking my time and trying to remember everything all at once. It was quite a rush," Bird said. "I think you have to realize that you’re above the whole situation so you kind of have to be the calm in the storm."
In the end, no allied forces were killed, said Iverson, who, along with other members of the 492nd, later met with some of the British army troops he and Bird helped out that day once they all got back to England.
While both men said they were honored to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor, they don’t consider what they did beyond the call of duty.
"I don’t think we did anything different that day than anybody else flying a fighter would have done," Iverson said. "We just happened to be there."