SSgt. John Hatzidakis, a pararescue instructor with the 342nd Training Squadron at Lackland AFB, Tex., has received the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for his heroic actions during the evacuation of a critically wounded British soldier near Lashkar Gah, west of Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, on March 19, 2009. While en route to Camp Bastion, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the HH-60G rescue helicopter carrying Hatzidakis, five other crew members, and a wounded British soldier, severely damaging its tail. Initially blown back by the explosion as he was attending to the soldier’s wounds, Hatzidakis quickly recovered and used his body to shield the Brit from flying debris. He then checked to see if others needed medical attention before assisting with the damage assessment. “I was just doing my job and what I thought was right,” said Hatzidakis, who received the DFC during an April 18 ceremony at Lackland. (Lackland release)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.