A HERO pilot has been honoured with the Air Force Cross for his ‘selflessness and extraordinary professionalism’ in flying two casualty rescue missions.
Captain Steven Jones, an Apache pilot with the Army Air Corps, is one of only two military personnel to receive the award in the latest honours list.
The 32-year-old, from Wattisham, flew to the aid of wounded soldiers in Afghanistan, in December, when he heard a radio call for assistance.
One soldier had been killed and several were wounded in a bomb explosion which had also disabled radios, leaving only Capt Jones able to hear them through an aircraft wavelength.
Despite running dangerously low on fuel, he kept his helicopter hovering above the soldiers to relay their messages for help.
Capt Jones said: “You can never leave a man behind. Yes, we were low on fuel, but that doesn’t matter where there are lives at risk.”
An emergency response helicopter was then able to reach the injured. When Capt Jones finally landed his attack helicopter the fuel gauge was registering the lowest an Apache has ever run on.
On another daring mission Capt Jones navigated through poor visibility and dust to escort a casualty evacuation helicopter to its safe landing site.
Capt Jones went on to pilot 20 further missions in December, 2010.
“You don’t think about it at the time,” he said. “It’s not that it isn’t significant because everything is significant out there because everything impacts on someone else’s life, but you have to put it in your back pack and move on to the next day.”