Rescue of the Year
The crewmembers of the Rescue of the Year
crew are Pilot in Command CPT Michael A. Stone, Co-Pilot CW2 Ezekial J.
Coffman, Medic SGT Frank l. Caudill, Crew Chief SPC Jose Peru of the 57th
Medical Company stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. At approximately
0910Z on 27 July 2002, DUSTOFF operations received a 9-Line MEDEVAC request
for numerous casualties located in the vicinity of Ab Khail. Elements of
U.S. Special Forces, 1/505th PIR, and Afghan militia fighters were
conducting a search of the village of Ab Khail. The search was intended to
locate weapons in the village. The crews of DUSTOFF 36, Wings 11 (a Quick
Reaction Force UH-60), and two escort AH-64s (Widowmaker 23 and 26)
were launched at 0920Z for pickup.
Since the intelligence on the objective was
minimal, the Widowmakers briefed that they would push forward 20 minutes out
from the Landing Zone (LZ) to perform a reconnaissance and security sweep.
Wing 11 and DUSTOFF 36 were still 12 miles out from the LZ when Widowmaker
26 first made contact with the ground unit Cobra 20 on secure FM. Upon
contact, Cobra 20 notified Widowmaker 26 that the TACP was on the same
frequency and needed the Apaches to make attack runs against the enemy
compound where soldiers were still receiving fire.
Immediately, Widowmaker 26 coordinated with
the TACP and his wingman to set up the axis of attack to ensure clearance of
fires from friendly forces. At this time Wings 11 and DUSTOFF 36 had closed
on the objective. DUSTOFF 36 led Wings 11 to the east, where they held one
mile away behind a ridgeline for security.
Widowmaker 23 and 26 began making multiple
runs against the compound, first employing 30mm cannon fire and then
2.75-inch rockets. This went on for
about ten minutes. Finally, Cobra 20 cleared DUSTOFF 36
and Wings 11 to ingress for casualty
DUSTOFF 36 coordinated with Widowmaker 26,
who informed them that the LZ was still “Cherry,” which meant that it was
still hot. The Apaches had reported receiving ground fire during their
attack runs, but it was time to get the casualties to a higher level of
care. DUSTOFF 36 sequenced their approach behind Widowmaker 23 as they made
a rocket attack against the objective.
Wings 11 and DUSTOFF 36 landed on the LZ at
1028Z. The medic and the Special Forces doctor got off the DUSTOFF aircraft
to assess and load the patients. At that time SPC Basham also left the Wings
aircraft to escort the wounded PUC (person under confinement) onto Wings 11.
While DUSTOFF 36 was in the LZ, a pair of
F-18s checked in with the TACP and proceeded to drop two Mark-82 bombs on
the compound, now located only 400 meters away to the South. While the
patients were being loaded, DUSTOFF 36 was in communication with Widowmaker
26, who informed them that they were receiving ground fire from their
current location to the Northeast, and to make their departure to the North.
The area from which they were receiving ground fire was the exact location
Wings 11 and DUSTOFF 36 had been holding prior to their ingress for pickup.
Once the casualties were loaded onto
DUSTOFF 36 and the PUC was secure on Wings 11, both aircraft made their
departure to the North. For the return trip they flew without the Apache
escort. The two Widowmaker aircraft remained to expend their remaining
ordinance in support of the ground unit. On departure, two A-10s also
checked in with TACP to provide their support to the continued suppression
of the enemy in the compound.
From the time the flight arrived, until
DUSTOFF 36 and Wings 11 departed, enemy troops were firing on U.S. forces
while CAS continued their suppression of the ground target. At 1130Z,
DUSTOFF 36 and Wings 11 arrived at Bagram Airfield and transferred the
patients to the waiting ambulances.
Congratulations also to the other great
Americans nominated by the unit commanders for the DUSTOFF Crewmember of the
Year Award. Those DUSTOFF Crewmembers are: SPC Brian Basham, 57th
Medical Company, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; CPL Brandon Buttram, 507th
Medical Company, Fort Hood, Texas; SSG Glen Johnston, 571st
Medical Company, Fort Carson, Colorado; SGT Frayne Fowler, 1042nd
Medical Company, Oregon ANG; and SGT Bruce Conger, 1085th
Medical Company, South Dakota ANG.
Congratulations also to crews from the
following units who were nominated: 45th
Medical Co., Germany; 50th Medical
Company, Fort Campbell, Kentucky; 159th
Medical Co., Weisbaden, Germany; 236th
Medical Co., Landstuhl, Germany; 507st
Medical Co., Fort Hood, Texas; 571st
Medical Co., Fort Carson, Colorado; 1042nd
Medical Co., Oregon ANG, Stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; 1085th
Medical Co, South Dakota ANG, U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment, Fort