WASHINGTON -- The two helicopter crews arrived at the mountainous location where U.S. and Afghan forces were pinned down and taking heavy fire from the cliffs above. An Afghan troop was injured severely and in need of immediate care if he was to live.
This was the scene the night of Jan. 9, 2012, in the high mountains near Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. When the call came in for help, the Special Operations Task Force requested Pedro 83 Flight by name to respond. It was this response that was celebrated where the crew was honored with the prestigious Mackay Trophy during a ceremony in Arlington, Virginia, on Nov. 12, 2013.
A team of U.S. Special Forces and Afghan National Army commandos were in day two of an operation to clear a village of enemy forces when the Afghan troop was injured. Comprised of two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and their crews from the 41st Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Pedro Flight 83 arrived at the scene. One helicopter crew hovered, firing upon the enemy and providing reconnaissance while the second crew, called Chalk 2, descended into the riverbed below.
"One thing different about this mission was [that] since we were at the bottom of a river valley, all the engagements were going on above us," said Capt. Brian Stroud, the co-pilot of Chalk 2. "It is a different feeling looking up through the rotor disc, realizing that if we were engaged, we were completely helpless."
Chalk 2 identified a small, open area in the riverbed where they could land and provide a quick evacuation of the patient. Now on the ground, pararescuemen sped to the wounded Afghan and used their expert skills to stabilize the patient and move him quickly back to the waiting Pave Hawk.
The crew evacuated under the protection of the helicopter above, transported the wounded troop to a medical team within the "golden hour," and he survived. The golden hour refers to a standard that gets troops to advanced-level treatment facilities within the first critical 60 minutes of being wounded.
In honor of these heroic acts, Lt. Gen. Stephen Hoog, the Air Force assistant vice chief of staff, presented the Mackay Trophy to Pedro 83 Flight on behalf of the National Aeronautic Association. The trophy is awarded for the "most meritorious flight of the year," according to the NAA, by an Air Force person, persons or organization.
"I never imagined I would be associated with winning the Mackay Trophy, an award of this caliber," said Tech. Sgt. John Ballard, an aerial gunner onboard chalk 2. "This team of professionals really carries forth the mentality to ensure these men and women make it home."
First presented by Clarence Mackay in 1912 and later deeded to the NAA, the trophy has been awarded to individuals, including 2nd Lt. Henry H. 'Hap' Arnold in 1912 and Capt. Chuck Yeager in 1947.
"I am honored to be a part of this ceremony that honors the men and women who bravely display airpower strength," Hoog said. "I have no doubt that the pioneers [who came] before us are honored these Airmen are receiving the Mackay Trophy."
"The men and women of Pedro 83 Flight are just ordinary men and women, but are doing extraordinary things in the service of our nation. To them, this type of heroic mission is just another day on the job. Their slogan says it all, 'So Others May Live.'"
For more information on past recipients of the Mackay Trophy visit, http://naa.aero/index.cfm.
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