JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Two 19th Air Force combat search and rescue officers were presented the Silver Star medal at the 19th Air Force's inactivation ceremony July 12.
Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., the commander of Air Education Training Command, presented the third-highest military decoration to Majs. Philip Bryant and Joshua Hallada for their participation in a recovery mission of two U.S. Army pilots who were downed in the Allasay Valley, an enemy controlled area east of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, April 23, 2011.
According to the citations, Hallada and Bryant distinguished themselves "by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force," while leading HH-60G Pavehawk rescue helicopters to recover downed U.S. Army pilots.
"The people who do this mission are not common people," Rice said, citing combat search and rescue members' commitment to leave no one behind and their ability to demonstrate "valor in the face of the enemy."
Hallada's team inserted pararescue teams while taking enemy small arms fire, which damaged the aircraft and seriously injured his flight engineer. After directing his wingman to return to base, Hallada flew multiple weapons passes, defending his teams on the ground and killing at least one insurgent. Hallada used overhead AH-64D Apache attack weapons teams as cover to attempt rescue of his teams and the distressed pilots.
During the rescue, enemy fire disabled the aircraft hoist, causing Hallada to execute a one-wheel landing to recover one of his two teams and one of the downed pilots. Hallada then took heavy fire, which caused severe damage to his aircraft. Hallada continued to provide cover for his team members and the remaining pilot still at the crash site. He then transferred his crew to a fresh aircraft and directed his formation back to the crash site.
"We were just getting it done," Hallada said. "We look at it is as our job; this is why we're here. And we do it on the backs of our crews. Our crews were the backbone of the mission."
Bryant's aircraft was engaged by enemy fire that seriously wounded his flight engineer and caused severe damage to flight control systems of the aircraft. Bryant maneuvered to escape, assessed the flight engineer's injury and immediately directed his aircraft back to base in order for the injured engineer to receive life-saving medical care.
After obtaining a replacement crew member, Bryant rejoined the fight and attempted extraction of one of the isolated pilots and teams who were now pinned down by enemy fire. His aircraft was engaged from both sides, with rounds striking two of his crew members and missing his own head by inches. Bryant then coordinated with AH-64D Apache attack weapons teams to cover a single ship rescue. His aircraft was once again targeted and received heavy enemy rounds.
Hallada and Bryant led their aircraft back to the crash site five more times into enemy fire and ultimately recovered the downed pilots, the pararescue teams and a Soldier critically wounded in the effort.
"There are so many other stories besides ours," Bryant said. "It's a tremendous honor (to receive the Silver Star). I'm very honored and humbled, but we never would have accomplished the mission without our attack assets."