Salutes & Awards

November 15, 2013

Fighter pilot goes above, beyond call of duty

Tags:
Staff Sgt. LUTHER MITCHELL Jr.
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Maj. Adam Thornton, 56th Training Squadron instructor pilot, stands next to an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Thornton deployed to Aviano in support of Operation Unified Protector where he received an Air Medal for acts above and beyond the call of duty.

“It was dusk, one of the worst times to use night vision goggles. The sun was going down over my right shoulder. The Mediterranean was dark and the sky was dark, like being in a gigantic black hole.

It was hard to tell which way was up and which way was down. We started looking for targets outside of Tripoli. We had determined, by the amount of surface-to-air equipment there, the Gaddafi regime would be using it to target coalition aircraft. Eliminating the equipment was a high priority.”

Maj. Adam Thornton, 56th Training Squadron instructor pilot, says he will never forget this mission. It was the longest mission he had flown, one in which he eliminated multiple enemy targets and earned an Air Medal for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Thornton was in an airplane on his way to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., from Shaw AFB, S.C., for a temporary duty assignment, when in midflight his plane changed course and headed back to Shaw. His unit had been activated in response to Operation Odyssey Dawn, the 2011 U.S.-led operation in Libya to implement a no-fly zone and prevent forces loyal to President Muammar Gaddafi from carrying out air attacks on rebel forces.

Two weeks later, on a Thursday afternoon, Thornton got word he was deploying to Aviano Air Base, Italy, without word of how long he would be there.

“We got to Aviano on a Monday afternoon and by Thursday night I was flying my first combat mission into Libya,” he said.

By then Operation Odyssey Dawn had transitioned into Operation Unified Protector, which was led by North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces. Coalition forces spent the next three weeks gathering information and preparing to move in, Thornton said.

“We were kind of standoffish over the Gulf of Sidra, waiting to shoot down radars,” he said. “That progressed into us going over land into Africa looking for surface-to-air radars and missile sites.”

Thornton flew his longest single sortie mission in Libya on July 10, leaving the lush landscape of Italy behind and descending into the darkness of Africa.

“We took off out of northern Italy just before dusk,” he said, “and I could see the snow caps of the Alps going off into the distance, something I’m probably never going to see again in my life.”

Thornton “fenced in,” after arriving in the combat zone, checking his aircraft’s avionics first, doing chaff and flare, ground system checks and getting ready to go into hostile territory.

It was not long after arriving there he found his first target.

“We located a straight flush radar that had been broken down into travel mode,” he said. “We positively indentified it as part of the Gaddafi regime and in 15 minutes we had clearance to engage.”

Thornton, along with his wingman, readied to move in.

“We pressed in using the sniper pod to generate coordinates for the bomb,” Thornton said. “Typical time of fall for a bomb is about a minute, which is the longest minute of your life. When it struck the SA-6 radar, it was right on target.”

The bomb hit the chassis and exploded, leaving the target burning neon orange. Thornton and his wingman were then asked to assist another coalition strike force that needed their support. Thornton and his wingman, while on station, found another radar used for strategic SAM sites. Thornton again dropped his bombs and took out the target.

“It was a direct hit,” he said. “When the bomb hit, the site looked like it was made out of paper mache. It left nothing behind but a hotspot in the ground.”

Thornton had flown in the dark throughout these hits. All the lights on his jet had been turned off in order to remain undetected by enemy radar.

Thornton flew a total of 11 hours from takeoff to landing. For this mission, Thornton would earn an Air Medal, which is awarded to U.S. military and civilian personnel for single acts of heroism while participating in aerial flight in actual support of combat operations.

For Thornton, the most satisfying part of his deployment was not receiving a medal, but doing the job he’d trained for over the previous eight years.

“There were a lot of guys who received medals, but none of the guys who were there felt like they did anything special,” he said. “I feel flattered for the decorations, but the most rewarding thing is doing the job you trained for.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Airmen get T-bolts to give blood, win award

Tech. Sgt. Alisa Frisch, 56th Medical Group unit training manager, and Capt. Sharlott Uriarte, 56th Medical Support Squadron, were among the top 3 percent of award-winning blood drive coordinators recently honored by United Blood Services, earning a Hero Award for providing the largest impact on the blood supply. Of the 1,080 organizations that sponsored blood...
 
 

ALS graduates 44 senior airmen

The 56th Fighter Wing Airman Leadership School graduated 44 senior airmen Feb. 12 from class 15-2. The award winners are: John L. Levitow: Melinda Charlton, 944th Force Support Squadron Distinguished graduates: Christopher White, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron; Kayleigh McGill, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron; and Curtus Cowles, 162nd Fighter Wing Commandant’s Award: Matthew McLaughl...
 
 
Airman Pedro Mota

Luke’s best shine Pt. 2

Airman 1st Class Pedro Mota Master Sgt. Francis Willis, 607th Air Control Squadron flight chief, Emcee’s for the annual awards ceremony Feb. 13, 2015 at the Wigwam Spa and Resort in Litchfield Park, Arizona.   — Nomine...
 

 

Salutes and Awards

Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega FROM LEFT: The 944th Fighter Wing 2014 winners are Senior Master Sgt. Chin Cox, 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, Majs. Bryan Dalton and Eric Puels, 69th Fighter Squadron, Senior Master Sgt. David Merris, 944th Force Support Squadron, Tech. Sgt. Jovita Holguin, 47th Fighter Squadron, Staff Sgt. David Hainley, 924th Operations Support Flight,...
 
 

AF pilot recognized for heroism in combat, awarded DFC with Valor

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — For one Airman, what seemed to be a standard patrol mission from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2008, concluded with him receiving a Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Jan. 29. The actions of Maj. Jeremiah Parvin and his wingman, Capt. Aaron Cavasos, 61st Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force...
 
 
Senior Airman 
DEVANTE WILLIAMS

61st AMU assigns first F-35 dedicated crew chiefs

Senior AirmanDEVANTE WILLIAMS Members of the 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chiefs prepare to recite the Mechanic’s Creed during the recognition ceremony Jan. 23 in Hanger 431 at Luke Air Force Base. Seventeen ...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin