US airman gets top honour after surviving battle

A US serviceman from RAF Lakenheath has been awarded the Purple Heart after he stood firm in a three- hour firefight.

Captain Gil Wyche was given the award by the US Air Force’s highest ranking officer, General Norton Schwartz, in Afghanistan last Wednesday.

Capt Wyche, a security forces officer assigned to the 966th Air Expeditionary Squadron, fought on through an attack despite having taken the brunt of a grenade blast.

Capt Wyche said: “I felt honoured to have the highest-ranking officer in the air force present this to me in a combat zone.”

The captain and his team had been faced with insurgents armed with small arms and grenades who attempted to rush the perimeter of their Jalalabad base.

After a three-hour firefight, the men were successful in holding off the assault.

Captain Wyche said that the attack had brought home the severity of their situation.

“We knew where we were going and we knew it was a hotbed. But nothing can prepare you until the bullets actually start flying, grenades start getting thrown on top of you, and you start firing back. My guys responded very well.”

The Purple Heart is given to personnel who are injured in action.

General Schwartz said: “The Purple Heart is not something that you desire to receive.

“But it has to be the award that’s given with the most respect.”

Airman Brandon Cullen Towle, deployed from North Carolina, was also awarded at the ceremony.