FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 28, 2013) -- A 1st Battalion, 212th Aviation Regiment Soldier received the Distinguished Flying Cross March 21 for his actions in Operation Enduring Freedom in January 2011.

Sgt. 1st Class Eugene M. Sides, F Co., 1st Bn., 212th Avn., was presented the medal by Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, during a ceremony in the USAACE headquarters building.

Sides earned the medal while with C Company, 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, at Fort Campbell, Ky., as a fully mission-qualified non-rated crewmember on an MH-60L.

"It's certainly an honor and privilege for me to be here today -- this is certainly a big deal," Mangum said. "It's a privilege to be able to recognize a deserving Soldier for valor. It's also a treat since when he received this award I was his commander -- albeit four levels removed in the rear with the gear.

"This is a big deal. And, Alisha and Mikayla (Sides' wife and daughter, age 2), this guy is a hero," the general said.

The DFC was given to Sides for heroism while participating in aerial flight as defensive armed penetrator, fully mission-qualified non-rated crewmember for a joint task force in support of OEF, according to the citation read at the ceremony.

"Sides' expertise and situational awareness contributed greatly to the successful execution of a direct action assault in support of strategic objectives. He remained willingly exposed to heavy direct fire for several hours, bravely suppressing multiple enemy fighting positions," according to the citation. "He displayed personal courage, heroism and a complete disregard for his own safety."

Although the firefight called for exceptional and heroic actions to save fellow Soldiers' lives and complete the mission, Sides said he didn't feel it at the time.

"I was just getting the job done," he said, adding that at first the situation can be overwhelming, but "then it's like being at the range and back to training. I think most people, after 12 years of war, would react the same way and revert back to their training."

Alisha said she wasn't surprised by her husband's actions.

"I don't know how to put it into words -- it's just amazing," she said of her husband's receiving the award. "It's amazing what he did for his unit. I'm very thrilled and proud to be his wife -- proud of what he's done."

Mangum put what Sides did in perspective for the audience, quoting something an old boss of his in Vietnam had told him.

"Remember, fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision," the general said. "So, on initial contact, that's the reaction. The decision is to stay in place in that door doing what needs to be done -- engaging the enemy. That day, Gene Sides decided to do what needed to be done."

Sides then thanked the general for presenting the award, and thanked his wife and daughter for their support, adding "they're my foundation."