When our military ground forces stormed the border into Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, it was the help and support of our air defenses that enabled them to accomplish their mission. When the first aircraft led the charge into Iraq, CW2 Nick DiMona, an Apache Longbow pilot with the 1-3 Aviation Regiment's Charlie Company, was right there.
CW2 DiMona recalled being "a little nervous, a little tension the first time in the Super Bowl, as we call it," but added, "once you get into the mix of things, your training, you just go back to your training and it comes natural."
The heavily armed Apache Longbows of Charlie Company would fly five major missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom, taking out the enemy's observation points and vehicles. CW2 DiMona's Apache alone would fire three hellfire missiles and eight rockets to clear the way for ground troops; but it was their other support missions that would bring the most satisfaction.
"The most gratifying part of being over there weren't the deliberate missions," DiMona said, "but the med-evac missions--the med-evac escort, escorting an unarmed Blackhawk with sometimes multiple systems failures in enemy territory to ensure the safety of injured American soldiers and sometimes wounded Iraqi soldiers and get them back to the MASH units."
1-3 Aviation did not lose anyone in Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the war was not without its close calls. As CW2 DiMona recalled, "We went in on, I would say, a lot of on-call missions. We flew in and flew around helping the ground guys, looking for the enemy within the engagement areas and at one point, we found ourselves in the engagement area with rounds coming inbound."
For their role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, DiMona and the aviators of 1-3 Aviation were awarded the Air Medal. He said he's "very proud and honored."
But this decorated war veteran says he's no hero. "I consider what I did my job," he said. "Unfortunately, the fallen comrades, I consider them the heroes. They made the ultimate sacrifice."
Although he has been home now for seven months, they are constantly on his mind today, along with the men and women still serving in Iraq. "Every night, my children and I say our prayers and we pray for their safe and speedy return."
CW2 DiMona says he is very proud of the 1-3 Aviation Regiment and the entire Third Infantry Division. He has always wanted to be a pilot and he's ready to go back if he's needed to serve our country in combat again.