Idaho ANG recognizes 22 flight crew members

Idaho ANG recognizes 22 flight crew members

6-Nov-2023 Source: US National Guard

The Idaho Army National Guard’s State Aviation Group recognized 22 helicopter pilots and flight crewmembers Friday for their roles in completing seven search and rescue missions from 2018-2023.

“Today we recognize the professionalism and selfless service of Idaho Army National Guard aircrews who have conducted life-saving rescue missions,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho. “These awards showcase their training and ability to execute difficult missions in extreme conditions when called upon.”

Five UH-60 Black Hawk crews received the Winged-S Rescue Award, which recognizes aviators who perform a live-saving rescue mission while flying a Sikorsky helicopter. Sikorsky manufactures the UH-60 Black Hawk used by two Idaho Army National Guard aviation units.

Two UH-72 Lakota crews received the Airbus Award of Valor, which recognizes crews whose efforts saved someone’s life. Airbus Helicopters, Inc., which manufactures the UH-72 Lakota used by the Idaho Army National Guard, distributes the award.

Garshak presided over the ceremony held on Gowen Field.

“In each of these missions, our Guardsmen supported search and rescue agencies, police, sheriff and fire departments, and other first responders, to rescue our fellow citizens,” Garshak said. “These awards highlight the National Guard’s ability to not only fight and win our nation’s wars, but to also respond to our citizens in times of need here in the homeland. This is what makes the National Guard such a critical asset to our state and nation.”

The Idaho Army National Guard’s UH-72 Lakotas and several UH-60 Black Hawks are equipped with a hoist that many civilian agencies are not equipped with. The helicopters’ advanced technology, mechanical capabilities, hoist and experienced flight crews and medics enable the Idaho Army National Guard to assist in search and rescue missions in areas where landing a civilian aircraft may not be practical or safe due to Idaho’s rugged terrain.

Winged-S Rescue Award

The Winged-S Rescue Award was presented to 15 Soldiers for their role in five UH-60 Black Hawk rescue missions. Several Soldiers received more than one award for their role in multiple search and rescues.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jess Anderson, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Eric Dillman, Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Nelson and Sgt. Danyon Fontenot received the award for their work on August 15, 2018. On that date, the UH-60 Black Hawk crew conducted a search and rescue mission in the Sawtooth Mountain Range. After locating two lost hikers, the crew utilized its hoist to rescue them, including one who had a serious leg injury, before overnight temperatures could become dangerous.

Dillman, Chief Officer 4 Nate Spaulding, and Nelson were also recognized for rescuing a 90-year-old woman from the roof of her house after extreme flooding in the Grangeville area on April 9, 2019. The crew worked alongside members of the Boise Fire Department’s Swiftwater Rescue Team to conduct the life-saving mission.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kevyn Sears, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Geoff Laubhan, Staff Sgt. Rich Manning and Staff Sgt. Keaton Nelson received their award for their actions on August 13, 2020. The flight crew recovered and transported an injured patient in Custer County who was at an elevation in high temperatures that made it unsafe for civilian aircraft to reach.

Dillman, Spaulding, Staff Sgt. Tom Barber and Staff Sgt. Keaton Nelson assisted Elmore County Search and Rescue with the rescue of a man who had been in a rural location for several days and was suffering from serious heat exhaustion on August 18, 2020. The crew received the Winged-S Rescue Award for their efforts.

On May 24, 2023, Capt. Morgan Hill, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Theron Cameron, Sgt. Adam Brundy, Sgt. Brad Stock and Sgt. Sgt. 1st Class Jared Gilstad rescued a hiker who had a complex leg fracture in the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue also assisted with the recovery. The crew was awarded the Winged-S Rescue Award for its efforts.

Airbus Award of Valor

Two UH-72 Lakota crews, including the Idaho Army National Guard’s state aviation officer, Col. Granger Amthor, received the Airbus Award of Valor.
Amthor, Capt. Fernando Soto, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Langdale and Staff Sgt. Kole Newberry received the award for their actions on Nov. 1, 2021. On that date, the crew worked together to recover a hunter who had a bleeding femoral artery in an area that was inaccessible to other aviation assets and transported him to a hospital, where he received life-saving medical care.

Just two days later, on Nov. 3, 2021, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Chad Queen, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mitch Watson and Staff Sgt. Craig McLeod used the Lakota’s hoist to rescue an individual injured in a UTV accident on steep terrain near Horseshoe Bend and transport him to a Boise hospital, where he received advanced medical treatment. The crew was presented the Airbus Award of Valor.

In memoriam

Anderson and Laubhan were killed after their UH-60 Black Hawk crashed during a training mission south of Lucky Peak on Feb. 2, 2021. Their spouses accepted the awards on their behalf.

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