At the end of March, Flight Lt. Christopher Gordon, a Royal Air Force (RAF) Chinook pilot, received the Distinguished Flying Cross for rescuing British and Afghan troops during a major contact with the Taliban in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Flying one of two Chinooks, escorted by a Boeing Apache attack helicopter, his mission had required the insertion of the troops into a known insurgent “safe haven.” However, due to heavy fire, the subsequent extraction of the ground troops initially had to be abandoned.
Flight Lt. Chris Gordon. Photo courtesy RAF
Intelligence reports indicated that the Taliban were preparing for a major assault on the friendly ground forces once the Apache was forced to break contact to refuel and rearm. Gordon persuaded his crews to make a final rescue attempt before this happened, resulting in him placing the Chinook in a position to protect the troops from Taliban fire while they boarded the aircraft.
His citation reads: “With little thought for his own safety and leading very much by example, Gordon displayed exemplary flying skills and considerable courage, placing his aircraft very close to the troops in order to minimize their exposure to enemy fire. With remarkable tactical awareness and impressive steadfastness under fire, Gordon held the aircraft on the ground to allow the troops time to board but it was struck by enemy fire, resulting in the loss of one of his two engines and an injured soldier.”
With only one engine running, “Gordon re-calculated his aircraft’s performance electing to conduct a highly advanced low level transition away from the pick up point. Gordon calmly flew his aircraft back to the hospital at Bastion while his crewman performed immediate first aid on his injured co-pilot.”