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Gunfighters Salute: Huey crewman awarded honors for heroism

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – On June 18, 2010, two UH-1Y Huey helicopter crews with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 flew to the aid of ground forces in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The Marines on the ground needed an emergency resupply of ammunition to continue fighting an intense battle and the “Gunfighters” of HMLA 369 headed to the fight, into the enemy attack.

The helicopters landed into heavy fire from small arms, machine gun, and rocket-propelled grenades to make the requested assistance.  Staff Sgt. Bart Davis, a crew chief in the lead UH-1Y helicopter, supervised the offload of ammunition and supplies, which continuously exposed him to enemy fire.

After the delivery was complete, the lead Huey lifted from the combat zone, and Davis identified those who were firing on the helicopter.  He provided suppressive fire with a .50 caliber machine gun. As enemy forces peppered the helicopter with machinegun fire, one of the pilots, Maj. Tres Smith, was hit and severely wounded.

Davis maneuvered Smith’s unconscious body off the helicopter’s flight controls and administered first aid. Davis then directed his crew to man the machine gun and aid the co-pilot, who returned the aircraft and crew safely to Camp Bastion hospital.

On May 24 Maj. Gen. Thomas Conant, the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, awarded Davis and Smith each the Distinguished Flying Cross for their heroism during a ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton.

“They flew in a high-threat environment,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). “Staff Sgt. Davis and Maj. Smith focused on what they had to do and took care of Marines on the ground, despite a high volume of incoming fire.”

Smith addressed the audience after the presentation of the awards, but had little to say about his own experience.

“I accept this award for those guys,” he said, motioning to the Marines of HMLA-369 standing in formation. “They did it, not me.”

Davis and Smith gave the audience a “Gunfighter salute” – flexing both arms over their heads – before adding their name patches to the Gunfighter “Honor Roll.” The squadron celebrates its distinguished Marines by adding their name patches to a special wall inside the hangar.

Conan said the bravery and professionalism displayed by Davis and Smith are typical actions of our Marines.

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