Captain Kim N. Campbell is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism while participating in aerial flight as an A/OA-10 fighter pilot, 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 332d Expeditionary Operations Group, 332d Air Expeditionary Wing at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait on 7 April 2003.
On that date, at North Baghdad Bridge, Iraq, flying as Yard 06, Captain Campbell’s professional skill and airmanship directly contributed to the successful close air support of ground forces from the 3d Infantry Division and recovery of an A-10 with heavy battle damage. While ingressing her original target area, Captain Campbell was diverted to a troops-in-contact situation where enemy forces had positioned themselves within 400 meters of the advancing friendly forces and were successfully preventing the lead elements of the 3d Infantry Division from crossing the North Baghdad Bridge.
Unable to eliminate the enemy without severe losses, the ground forward air controller had requested immediate close air support. After a quick situation update and target area study, Captain Campbell expertly employed 2.75 inch high explosive rockets on the enemy position that had been threatening the advancing forces, scoring a direct hit and silencing the opposition.
During her recovery from the weapons delivery pass, a surface-to-air missile impacted the tail of Captain Campbell’s aircraft. Immediately taking corrective action, she isolated the hydraulic systems and placed the A-10 into the manual reversion flight control mode of flight and prepared for the long and tenuous return flight to Kuwait.
Captain Campbell’s aviation prowess and coolness under pressure directly contributed to the successful completion of the critical mission and recovery of a valuable combat aircraft. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Captain Campbell reflect great credit upon herself and the United States Air Force.
With the throttle still full out, Campbell began to make her move up and away from the target. She was just beginning to move to her left, with the familiar, solid sensation of G-forces underneath her seat, “when I felt and heard a large explosion in the back of the aircraft.”
“There was no doubt in my mind,” she said. “I knew exactly what it was. I knew I’d been hit.”
It was an anti-aircraft missile, and the impact had sheared both hydraulic lines to her jet.
“Our hydraulics are really what allow our flight control system to function normally,” Campbell said. If the system is compromised, rudders, flaps, and other critical flight and landing gear won’t work.
“At this point there’s really one option,” Campbell said, “and that’s to switch to manual inversion” the A-10’s backup system of cables.
Campbell also knew she had a second option: eject and allow the plane to crash.
But there were civilians down there, and there was no knowing who would be hit by the burning Warthog.
Moreover, “ejecting in itself over friendly territory is one thing. Now, ejecting over enemy territory and going down over Baghdad, where we were just delivering ordnance on Iraqi Republican Guard, is a totally different story.”