Tech. Sgt. David Shea is a flight engineer for the CV-22 Osprey. On Dec. 21, 2013, he manned the rampmounted
tail gun during an attempted rescue of American citizens from a densely populated United
Nations compound in Central Africa.
What began as a routine approach and landing quickly spiraled into a near disaster as Shea’s aircraft
came under heavy gunfire from ground forces. Within seconds the Osprey sustained severe structural
damage and four military personnel on board received life-threatening injuries. Despite multiple
ruptured fuel tanks, hydraulic systems failures and electrical outages, Shea successfully directed the
maneuver of his aircraft away from the weapons engagement area.
During egress from the threat, while manning the tail gun and attempting to track a sister aircraft in
the formation, he was struck in the chest plate by a small arms round. Shea quickly recovered from the
shock of the ballistic impact, regrouped and provided medical aid to the most critically wounded in
the aircraft. While holding his wounded teammate’s arterial bleeding at bay with one hand, he keyed
the microphone with his other, passing on timely and accurate assessments to the pilots about the
aircraft’s state, ensuring rapid identification of a massive fuel leak.
Shea simultaneously conducted a thorough battle damage assessment of the aircraft while continuing
to deliver medical assistance to the wounded. Stabilizing the most gravely injured for continued flight
became priority number one since all divert airfields lay hundreds of miles away. Shea was able to tend
to the four injured Special Forces personnel during the 400-mile transit through Africa without any
further incident. After landing, he personally ensured the rapid transfer of the critically wounded to the
medical support and hospital transport teams before taking care of his own injuries.
Shea was awarded the Air Force Mackay Trophy and submitted for the Distinguished Flying Cross for
his actions.