Army Green Berets fighting the enemy in Afghanistan on 15 November 2001 had discovered a hornet’s nest as Taliban tanks and armored vehicles rumbled up to within two miles of the special operators. They obviously intended to attack at any moment, and the men did not have the heavy weapons to stop tanks. They needed help, and fast.
Lieutenant Andrew P. Hayes of Fighter Squadron (VF)-102, the radar intercept officer of a Grumman F-14B Tomcat, launched as the lead of call sign Brando 01, a flight from aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). As Lieutenant Hayes assumed forward air controller duties he spotted the Taliban, and thinking quickly, decisively took command of the situation and attacked the Islamic extremists.
The tribesmen resolutely opened fire but Hayes dropped three laser-guided bombs and scored direct hits on two moving tanks and on a revetted armored vehicle. Meanwhile, his wingman released three additional GBU-12 laser-guided bombs which Hayes guided in to destroy two revetted tanks and a fuel truck. When the truck exploded about fifty Taliban leapt out of their positions and fled into the desert.
Over the next six hours Hayes continued to guide weapon deliveries by a dozen aircraft from Blueridge, Everest, Rocky and Sinai flights, and to track the Taliban as they scattered, until low fuel forced him to disengage and return for refueling. Hayes’ heroic actions resulted in the destruction of 33 vehicles, 27 of them armored.
“…The bigger accomplishment was saving American lives on the ground” the lieutenant humbly reflected afterward. “It was Americans helping Americans. It was my job to make sure they were safe while they continued their mission…” Lieutenant Hayes subsequently received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism that day.