A-10 Pilot Awarded Silver Star For Unleashing Hell On Iraqi Army in 2003

Air Force photo

In case we needed reminding of just how crucial a role the A-10 Thunderbolt II has played on the post-9/11 battlefield, a ‘Warthog’ pilot will soon receive the Silver Star for braving enemy ground fire to help beleaguered American forces carve a path to Baghdad during the opening phase of the Iraq War, Air Force Times reports.

Gregory Thornton, now a retired lieutenant colonel, was a captain on April 6, 2003, the day soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment encountered a phalanx of Iraqi army troops dug in on the eastern side of a bridge spanning the Tigris River. On the other side of the bridge Baghdad was still mostly under Iraqi military control.

As Iraqi tanks and armored infantry fighting vehicles began hammering the regiment’s lead element, Thornton swooped in. A sandstorm rendered visibility dangerous low, but for the next 33 minutes, Thornton and his leader managed to evade what his Silver Star citation describes as an “ever-increasing hailstorm of anti-aircraft fire. According to Air Force Times, Thornton destroyed or dismantled three T-72 tanks, six armored personnel carriers, and several utility vehicles that were within striking distance of the American troops.

“Captain Thornton repeatedly maneuvered his aircraft to within 3,000 feet of enemy forces to bring his 30-millimeter Gatling gun to bear,” a synopsis of the Silver Star citation reads. “This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Captain Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed the Task Force and Armor Battalion to successfully accomplish their objective linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad.”   

Thornton, who initially received a Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for his role in the 2003 campaign, was one of eight airmen whose valor awards were upgraded earlier this year following a Department of Defense review of medals bestowed for actions in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Silver Star is the nation’s third highest award for valor.

Gen. Mike Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command, will present Thornton with the medal in a ceremony on the evening of June 30 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The ceremony comes on the heels of the House Armed Services Committee’s 60-1 vote to authorize $696.5 billion in defense spending for 2018, a package that includes $103 million to preserve three A-10 Warthog squadrons, assuaging concerns that the iconic jet will soon be fully phased out of the U.S. military’s arsenal.   

Watch Next:

Islamic state members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 18, 2019. (Reuters/Rodi Said)

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) - The Islamic State appeared closer to defeat in its last enclave in eastern Syria on Wednesday, as a civilian convoy left the besieged area where U.S.-backed forces estimate a few hundred jihadists are still holed up.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 317th Airlift Wing walk to waiting family members and friends after stepping off of a C-130J Super Hercules at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 17, 2018 (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Mercedes Porter)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The U.S. Air Force has issued new guidelines for active-duty, reserve and National Guard airmen who are considered non-deployable, and officials will immediately begin flagging those who have been unable to deploy for 12 consecutive months for separation consideration.

Read More Show Less
Pictured left to right: Pedro Pascal ("Catfish"), Garrett Hedlund ("Ben"), Charlie Hunnam ("Ironhead"), and Ben Affleck ("Redfly") Photo Courtesy of Netflix

A new trailer for Netflix's Triple Frontier dropped last week, and it looks like a gritty mash-up of post-9/11 war dramas Zero Dark Thirty and Hurt Locker and crime thrillers Narcos and The Town.

Read More Show Less
Army Sgt. Daniel Cowart gets a hug from then-Dallas Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty. Photo: Department of Defense

The Distinguished Service Cross was made for guys like Sgt. Daniel Cowart, who literally tackled and "engaged...in hand to hand combat" a man wearing a suicide vest while he was on patrol in Iraq.

So it's no wonder he's having his Silver Star upgraded to the second-highest military award.

Read More Show Less
A small unmanned aerial vehicle built by service academy cadets is shown here flying above ground. This type of small UAV was used by cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, during a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-sponsored competition at Camp Roberts, California, April 23-25, 2017. During the competition, cadets and midshipmen controlled small UAVs in "swarm" formations to guard territory on the ground at Camp Roberts. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Drones have been used in conflicts across the globe and will play an even more important role in the future of warfare. But, the future of drones in combat will be different than what we have seen before.

The U.S. military can set itself apart from others by embracing autonomous drone warfare through swarming — attacking an enemy from multiple directions through dispersed and pulsing attacks. There is already work being done in this area: The U.S. military tested its own drone swarm in 2017, and the UK announced this week it would fund research into drone swarms that could potentially overwhelm enemy air defenses.

I propose we look to the amoeba, a single-celled organism, as a model for autonomous drones in swarm warfare. If we were to use the amoeba as this model, then we could mimic how the organism propels itself by changing the structure of its body with the purpose of swarming and destroying an enemy.

Read More Show Less