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Name (Last, First Middle)Cardoso, James L.
Branch at time of eventUSAF
Home Town
Home State
High School
High School Activities
Post High School
Academy Experiences
Academic Degree Major
Active Duty AssignmentsPltTng ,71StuSt/InstrPlt, VanceAFB; 89,: InstrPlt, 25th FTS, Vance AFB; 95: StuPlt,MH-53J, 551 SpecOpsSq Kirtland AFB; 96,: Plt,MH-53J, 31 SpecOpsSq, Osan AB, ROK; 97:Plt,MH- 53M,20SpecOpnsSq,HulburtFld;Stu,Western HemisphereInstitute for Secutiy Cooperation,FtBenning,GA;02:Aide-de- Camp,CINCSOCOM,USSpecOpsCmd;04:OpsOfficer,551SpecO psSq,KirtlandAFB;05:Cmdr,71SpecOpsSq,KirtlandAFB; 07:tu AirWC,MaxwellAFB;08:Cmdr,27thSpecOpsGp, Cannon AFB
Civilian Positions
Award Year2000
Award Summary InformationMaj James L. Cardoso, Class of 1988, is the winner of the 2000 Colonel James Jabara Award for Airmanship for his courageous actions during a combat search and rescue over Serbia during Operation ALLIED FORCE. Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) nominated Major Cardoso for his actions, which saved the life of a fellow pilot and inspired confidence of rescue in every ALLIED FORCE aviator. On 27 Mar 99, an F-117 stealth fighter pilot ejected during a bombing mission over Belgrade, Serbia. Despite limited information on the survivor's location, Maj Cardoso launched into the zero illumination night to rescue a fellow airman from hostile Yugoslav airspace. He flawlessly led his flight through a low-level night vision goggle air refueling. He flew with no communications and zero lighting to minimize the flight's exposure to the enemy. Once the downed pilot was authenticated on the radio by friendly forces, Maj Cardoso led his 3-ship package across the bother and flew into the teeth of one of the most heavily armed air defense networks in the world. The survivor was down within 25 miles of downtown Belgrade and within 10 miles of Batajnica Airfield, Serbia's primary MIG fighter base. Serbian ground forces had successfully intercepted the survivor's radio transmissions and were both closing in on his position and actively seeking to engage the rescue forces. En route to the downed pilot's reported location, Maj Cardoso led the flight through a myriad of mobile threats and uncharted obstacles, skillfully employing the Integrated Defensive Avionics System/Multi-Mission Airborne Tactical Terminal (IDAS/MATT) on its first-ever combat mission. Despite active tracking by Serbian radar throughout the flight, Maj Cardoso deftly avoided several SA-3 and SA-6 surface-to-air missile (SAM) engagement zones. Flying over the moonless, overcast darkness at less than 100 feet above the ground, with the terrain ¬following radar off to avoid enemy detection, the flight dodged high-tension lower lines, telephone poles, and searchlight aids as they ingressed to the survivor. Maj. Cardoso’s flight was suddenly alone at the objective, isolated by low ceilings, one-half mile visibility, zero moon illumination, and unknown small arms and an infrared SAM threat from amassed enemy forces. The formidable task of locating the survivor and recovering him safely faced Cardoso and his grew. At one point, search dogs were within 30 feet of the downed airman's position. The survivor's infrared strobe light was inoperative, and he was unable to locate his pen-gun flares. This left only an overt daytime flare as a viable signaling option. Maj Cardoso directed the pilot to ignite his flare, marking his position for the rescue package. but also for the rapidly closing enemy forces. Maj Cardoso instantly spotted the survivor less than one-half mile away from the helicopter package. He directed the flight's more maneuverable MH-60G helicopter to execute the pickup so he could continue to maintain “eyes-on target." In less than a minute, the MH-60G executed the recovery and departed the landing zone. The 30-minute route back to the forward deployed location was now strewn with alerted Serbian forces that were not only aware of their location, but were actively utilizing anti-aircraft barrage fire, search lights, and small arms tactics to block the egress route. Traveling at tree-top-level, the flight successfully evaded multiple searchlights and small arms threats to arrive at a safe location five and 1/2 hours after initial takeoff. Maj Cardoso's outstanding poise, bravery, and professional expertise as flight lead were essential for the successful rescue of his 'fellow airman. Major Cardoso was awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions.
Involved Crew Members
Burial Site/DateN/A
Aeronautical Speciality RatingCommand Pilot
Notable Military and Civilian Decorations & AwardsSS,DMSM,MSM(2),MSM(2),AFCM,AAM(2) Jabara Award
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