Two A-10 Pilots Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross for ISIS Fight

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, Maj. Tyler Schultz and Capt. Samantha Harvey, 354th Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots, and Chief Master Sgt. Frank Batten III, command chief of ACC, pose for a photo at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 2, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Giovanni Sims)
U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, Maj. Tyler Schultz and Capt. Samantha Harvey, 354th Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots, and Chief Master Sgt. Frank Batten III, command chief of ACC, pose for a photo at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 2, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Giovanni Sims)

Two A-10 Thunderbolt pilots were recently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for providing close-air support to U.S. Army forces in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria last May.

Maj. Tyler Schultz and Capt. Samantha Harvey, with the 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, were presented with the military's fourth-highest medal by Air Combat Commander Gen. Mike Holmes at the Arizona base on March 2, according to a news release.

Schultz and Harvey got a call from a Joint Terminal Attack Controller near al-Shaddadi in northeast Syria that ISIS fighters had surrounded U.S. forces and begun a direct assault on their location on the night of May 2, 2017.

The two A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots coordinated a plan of attack.

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"Talking with the JTAC -- I learned what fear sounds like," Harvey said in the release. "All that mattered was he needed us at that moment."

Harvey beelined to the battlefield for a show of force while Schultz "executed four strafe runs directly onto the enemy threat," the release said.

"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.' "

According to reports at the time, ISIS fighters had been using al-Shaddadi as a staging area to build up their forces before the next offensive from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Months later, the SDF launched an offensive against ISIS fighters in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, roughly 50 miles from al-Shaddadi.

With Harvey's command and Schultz's response under pressure, the team was able to save more than 50 U.S. personnel with zero casualties, the release said.

"We're there to support, protect and bring our ground forces home," Schultz said.

The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to "any officer or enlisted member of the U.S. armed forces who has distinguished themselves in combat in support of operations by heroism or extraordinary achievement in flight," according to the Air Force.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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