The Air Force has upgraded retired Lt. Col. Gregory Thornton’s Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor to a Silver Star for his actions in Iraq in 2003. Thornton is one of eight airmen to be upgraded as a result of a recent DOD-wide review of medals given during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then-Capt. Thornton was flying an A-10 and providing close air support for a ground controller attached to a task force and armor battalion. When the task force lead was attacked by a battalion-sized enemy cohort, including tanks and armored infantry vehicles, Thornton flew within 3,000 feet of the enemy to attack despite poor weather, low visibility, and heavy fire. For more than half an hour, Thornton used his 30-mm Gatling gun to eliminate a number of enemy vehicles and weapons in the midst of an intense sandstorm. As a result of his “superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit,” the task force was able to link up with coalition troops and complete the mission of surrounding Baghdad, according to the award citation.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.