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On 25 October 2001, Major Brant Bond, a pilot with the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 Thunderbolts, flying above Afghanistan about a month after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, was concerned only with neutralizing Taliban forces from aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and not of being awarded any medal for valor.

After receiving word from ground troops, who were under heavy Taliban fire, Bond, who wasn't scheduled to fly that day, destroyed several anti-aircraft weapons and sent the Taliban scattering.

Bond's actions on that day earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on Tuesday 17 December 2002.

The Distinguished Flying Cross is amongst the highest honors that can be awarded in the Armed Forces, and is awarded to a person who displays heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.

Charles Lindbergh received the very first award of the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1927 for his flight from New York to Paris.

"It was a surprise, to be honest," Bond said after receiving the award. "It was a good kind of surprise."

Bond recalled the flight over the Taliban after receiving the citation from Colonel David Peeler, Marine Aircraft Group 31 commanding officer.

"They (Taliban) were camouflaged and hard to pick up at first," he said. But once he caught sight and destroyed the first Taliban target, the others scattered.

"Pretty much everything broke loose from there," Bond said. "I'm lucky to have a good airplane with everything working as advertised."

Bond attributes his success, and the success of the mission, to the teamwork between he and the other five pilots involved.

"The other five guys up there did a great job and deserve recognition for it," Bond said. "It's all about teamwork up there. It has nothing to do with the individual."

Copyright 2002 The Beaufort Gazette

Special to – 18 December 2002

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