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Remembering That Time an A-10 Pilot Lived Up to Her Callsign

Source: SSgt Jason Haag, United States Air Force

Here’s a story we never get tired of telling. It was April of 2003, and the 3rd Infantry Division was storming into Baghdad as hard as possible. The Iraqi Republican Guard was giving everything they had to resist the soldiers’ advance. To get the edge over the enemy, the 3rd called in air support.

They called in Captain Kim “Killer Chick” Campbell.

Despite a heavy dust storm that had moved in over the AO, Campbell pointed her A-10 Thunderbolt II directly at the enemy. The A-10, as most of you reading this probably know already, is a flying death machine and one of the most effective close air support platforms in the history of warfare.

In the face of RPG, anti-aircraft, and small arms fire, Campbell unleashed several rockets on the enemy position that had been threatening the advancing forces, scoring a direct hit and silencing the opposition.

Her mission accomplished, and the ground forces free to advance, her entire jet was suddenly rocked by an explosion.

She’d taken a surface-to-air missile to the tail. Her hydraulics and horizontal stabilizers were totally blown. Losing control, Campbell’s plane started spiraling toward Baghdad in an unresponsive dive.

Campbell was then faced with two equally horrible options.

Option #1 was ejecting. But that meant sending the A-10 crashing into a city of 11 million people, not to mention being captured by pissed-off Iraqi troops.

Option #2 was fight to regain control of the aircraft, possibly fail, and certainly die.

Thinking quickly, Campbell chose Option #2. She cut the doomed hydraulics which would’ve surely caused her plane to crash into the city, causing massive civilian casualties, and switched over to manual piloting mode. Which, without getting into the technical details of flying an aircraft, is an incredibly difficult way to fly.

Stunningly, Campbell regained control of the crippled aircraft and flew out of the danger zone, getting shot at the entire time by Baghdad defenders. By the time she landed, her aircraft was a total mess. I mean just look at that wing and fuselage:

Then-Capt. Kim “Killer Chick” Campbell surveys the battle damage on her A-10 Thunderbolt II. Photo credit: SSgt Jason Haag, United States Air Force

For eliminating an entrenched enemy position on a danger close mission in the face of a hellish barrage of defensive fire, and saving possibly hundreds of American lives, Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Killer Chick indeed. Well done, Captain.