F-16 Pilot Receives Distinguished Flying Cross

Maj. John Caldwell, an F-16 operational test pilot with the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., recently received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism in protecting a special operations team that came under enemy ambush on May 2, 2011, in Nuristan province, Afghanistan. Then a captain, Caldwell responded with his F-16 to the ambush of some 90 insurgents, according to Eglin’s June 29 release. The friendly forces were taking casualties. He executed a danger-close strafing run that broke the enemy’s charge and then re-attacked, this time with an “expertly placed” joint direct attack munition that completely neutralized the ambush, according to the release. “Guys on the ground that night are telling the story of the F-16 that saved them and how they wouldn’t be standing today” without Caldwell’s actions that day, said Col. David Hicks, Eglin’s 53rd Wing commander, who pinned the DFC on Caldwell. “I was at the right place at the right time and I believe anyone in my squadron would do the same thing,” said Caldwell. (Eglin report by Chrissy Cuttita)