Missouri guardsman awarded flying medal for heroism in Iraq

Friday, June 15, 2007 | 3:49 p.m. CDT; updated 7:27 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - A southwest Missouri National Guard sergeant has been awarded the U.S. Army's Distinguished Flying Cross medal for heroism during a flight over Iraq that came under fire.

The Missouri National Guard said Friday that Sgt. Alexander Johnston, 30, of Willard, is one of just a few enlisted soldiers to receive the medal, which is primarily given to flight officers.

Johnston was flight engineer on a C-23 Sherpa airplane carrying cargo and passengers in January from Balad to Tikrit in Iraq.

The plane was flying at an altitude of 100 feet when it was hit by machine gun fire from an insurgent on the ground.

The pilot, co-pilot and a passenger were hit. Johnston helped moved the co-pilot out of his seat and cared for the injured passenger, then took the co-pilot's seat to help the wounded pilot safely finish the flight.

"With little regard for his personal safety, Johnston calmly assessed the situation and executed," Lt. Col. Patrick Weber, Operation Support Airlift Command commander, wrote in the commendation. "His actions both in and out of the cockpit clearly aided in the safe return of this battle damaged aircraft."

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