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Name (Last, First Middle)Anderson, Leighton T.
Branch at time of eventUSAF
SquadronCS 18
Home Town
Home State
High School
High School Activities
Post High School
Academy Experiences
Academic Degree MajorBS-AeroEngr USAFA 1992 MS-Univ of Montana 1996
Active Duty AssignmentsPltTng,LaughlinAFB,TX;94:MalmstromAFB;97:Kirtland AFB;TestDir,18thFltTestSq,Hurlburt Fld;
Civilian Positions
Award Year2003
Award Summary InformationMajor Leighton T, Anderson, United States Air Force Academy Class of 1992, distinguished himself as an MH-53M aircraft commander and flight lead during a direct action assault mission during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Major Anderson expertly inserted the multinational special forces team to the objective area, a housing compound in central Afghanistan, which required precise aircraft maneuverability due to the limited landing zones in the narrow, high¨altitude valley. While returning to extract the special forces team, the objective area was completely obscured with dust from the previous landings; several helicopters were unable to land due to the extreme conditions, Major Anderson, employing a 'radar altitude hold technique' he had developed on previous missions, was one of the few pilots who successfully landed to retrieve the ground troops. Two other aircraft, unable to land after repeated attempts and dangerously low on fuel, were ordered to depart and refuel. Major Anderson, knowing the ground troops' safety would be in jeopardy without AC-130 support while waiting for the other helicopters to refuel and return, loaded the additional 12 special ops personnel on board. Major Anderson's aircraft, holding over triple the planned exfil load, barely had enough power to take off. Despite zero visibility, and being dangerously close to several high stone walls, walled compounds and steep terrain, Major Anderson carefully drifted several feet off the ground utilizing maximum power available. Cr^+inuing to fly by only instruments, he eventually gained sufficient fl airspeed and accelerated away from the ground and cleared the dust, only then realizing the narrow margin by which the main rotor blades had missed hitting a stonewall on the side of the landing zone, Of the seven MH-53M aircraft used in the 14-hour operation, there were a total of ten blown tires and two airframes with significant structural damage; Major Anderson had made three perfect dust-out landings with no aircraft damage. His radar altitude hold technique is now being taught to students during initial aircraft training. Major Anderson's outstanding bravery and professional expertise as flight lead were essential to the successful mission. The distinctive accomplishments of Major Anderson reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Involved Crew Members
Burial Site/DateN/A
Aeronautical Speciality RatingCommand Pilot
Notable Military and Civilian Decorations & AwardsJabara Award
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