Seven New River Marines awarded aviation combat medals

Seven New River Marines awarded aviation combat medals

M.C.A.S. NEW RIVER - The commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing presented the Distinguished Flying Cross Wednesday morning to two Marine pilots for their actions in combat in Afghanistan in 2012.
Maj. Gen. Robert Hedelund also bestowed five Air Medals with Valor to five other Marines at the ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River.
Maj. Michael Hutchings and Capt. David Haake are receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The Air Medals with Valor are being awarded to Capt. David Austin; Capt. Joel Vandenende; Sgt. John Leist; Sgt. Shane Moreland; and Sgt. Matthew Belleci.
The Distinguished Flying Cross recognizes heroism or extraordinary achievement during a flight. The Air Medal recognizes single acts of heroism or meritorious achievement during flight.

The pilots landed while under enemy fire to bring more backup to help in a firefight between the marines and the enemy. Even though the osprey was seriously damaged from 12 machine gun hits, the Marines were still able to make it safely home. They also saved an injured Afghan soldier as well as many other Marine lives.

Hutchings credits the success of the mission to the survivability of the osprey.

"Sometimes those missions are unpredictabl,e and you don't always know what you're getting into," Hutchings said. "So we did assault supports and we did our job, and thank goodness the reliability of the airplane got us home."

Moreland was humbled by the award and recognition.

"I believe that pretty much under the circumstances that we were in, being in Afghanistan and trained up very well, I think that anybody in my place probably could have performed just as well as I did," Moreland said.

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