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US Army: 2007-04-10 AviatorOfYear release

US Army: 2007-04-10 AviatorOfYear release

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Published by: Army on Jan 28, 2008
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Chief Warrant Officer 2 Philip Learn of VCorps' 3rd Battalion, 159th Aviation, 12thAviation Brigade, poses in a hangar at theIllesheim (Germany) Army Airfield. Learn wasrecently named Aviator of the Year by theArmy Aviation Association of America.
By Sgt. 1st Class Chris Seaton
12th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office
ANSBACH, Germany --
On a routine air assault mission in Afghanistan, six aircraftfrom what is now V Corps’ 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and members of theCanadian Special Forces were ordered to perform a raid on a high-value target. Asthe first aircraft, a CH-47 Chinook, started downward to insert the Canadian Soldiers,a rocket-propelled grenade struck its side, engulfing the big twin-rotor helicopter inflames.That’s when Chief Warrant Officer 2 Philip Learn,an AH-64D Apache "Longbow" pilot from the12th’s 3rd Battalion, 159th Aviation took action.As the burning helicopter attempted to land,Learn said, 10 enemies with small arms andRPGs advanced on it.The pilot quickly redirected a second Chinook, preventing it from landing in thehostile landing zone.
He then turned his attention to the burning aircraft on the ground. Its crew and 34passengers were pinned down by intense small-arms fire. Within seconds Learn puthis Apache in a covering position under direct enemy fire.Rocket-propelled grenades crossed under his aircraft, but Learn says he kept hisaircraft low and continued to fight until the enemy advance was halted.Apache pilots are trained to stand off while firing. They learn to provide cover firewithout crossing into enemy range. The mountains of Afghanistan make that tacticdifficult. “It’s hard to pick out individuals in the mountains,” Learn said. “When I was firing, Iwas about 70 to 100 feet over the downed aircraft, trying to provide cover. Thatwas the only way to do it without causing a fratricide.” Learn says he was in the air for about eight hours that day, engaging enemy forceson the ground, making several passes while dodging enemy fire, and making tripsback to a Forward Arming and Refueling Point just long enough to refuel.At the end of the day, the incident ended without a single friendly casualty -- thanksto Learn’s actions, the Army says. “That was one of several long days in Afghanistan,” the pilot said.In total, Learn says, he took part in eight large fights during his 12 months inAfghanistan. He became the most decorated warrant officer in the 12th’s Task ForceStorm, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Air Medals with Valor and threeAir Medals.
 Most recently Learn’s distinguished service earned him another unique tribute, whenhe was named Aviator of the Year by the Army Aviation Association of America.Lt. Col. Don Fallin, Learn’s battalion commander, said the pilot’s actions in combatare just part of the reason he was selected for that honor. “He’s had a pattern of doing well,” said Fallin. “A lot of times you’ll see seniorwarrants get these awards. He shows a lot of maturity and judgment for a guywho’s only been flying a few years.” After serving in various positions as an Army NCO and in the civilian workforce,including combat engineer, air traffic controller and police officer, Learn says, hedecided in 2002 to apply to become an aviation warrant officer. He barely made thecutoff age of 29 years old. A year later he graduated the Apache course with honors. “My background has made a big difference in my success,” he said. “Being able tomake hard decisions in violent situations gave me a leg up. Being a priornoncommissioned officer helped, because I know how the Army works.” Learn has moved very quickly up the Army aviation ladder. A typical Apache pilotbecomes a pilot-in-command with somewhere between 500 to 700 hours of flighttime. He passed his evaluation with only 348 hours.He now serves as an Apache pilot instructor. While he realizes that he’s still very junior to be an instructor pilot, he also knows that he has the experience to guideand mentor newer pilots.

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