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Distinguished Flying Cross recipient visits the 171st

July 2, 2010 --      October 2, 2009 Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan strapped in their F-15E Strike Eagle, Capt. Mike "Ox" Polidor, pilot and Capt. Aaron "Finch" Dove, F-15E weapon system operator, both from the 335th Fighter Squadron were preparing for a routine mission at the base. Unexpectedly over the radio "Coalition Out Post (COP) Keating is being overrun. We need you to go there right now."
     In seconds Polidor and Dove were on their way. They tuned their radio to the frequency given to them by Bagram's Air Traffic Control and were connected to the Ground Controller near COP Keating.
     From the air, they saw smoke rising in the distance from the Kamdesh Valley. On the ground the outpost manned by 80 allied soldiers was under attack, from all angles, by 250 Taliban militants. The U.S. soldiers on the ground were surrounded and had taken their final defensive position.
     Polidor and Dove arrived eight minutes after take-off and found two other F-15s on scene low on fuel and ammo. They relieved these F-15s and received ground targets from the ground controller.
     Munitions from Polidor's F-15 ripped through the Taliban attack. More friendly aircraft arrived and Polidor relayed ground targets to them, coordinating a counter at¬tack that lasted eight hours and included 19 aircraft.
     "It was intense the whole time," Dove said. "Anyone in our squadron would have done the same exact thing and could have done it as well or better than we did. We just happen to be there. That was the difference."
     "We have a sign in our squadron that kind of puts it into perspective that says the mission is an 18 year old with a rifle, everything else is support," said Polidor.
Polidor and Dove were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on April 19 for their role in saving 72 lives.
     Polidor grew up in the Pittsburgh area. He visited the 171st Air Refueling Wing during the 4th of July weekend and performed a flyover at the Pittsburgh Pirates' game. This will be his final flight in the F-15E. "I can't think of a better way to go out than a flyover in your home town," Polidor said smiling.
     Polidor's next assignment will be to pilot the B-2 Stealth Bomber. His wife, Capt. Nikola "Mandrake" Polidor, currently a B-52 pilot, will be reassigned to fly the B-2. Separated for the last four years by their tours of duty, they will be reunited to serve together at the same unit.