F.S. GABRESKI AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, WESTHAMPTON BEACH,
N.Y. – The courage that six New York Air National Guardsmen
showed under fire in Afghanistan was recognized with six
Bronze Star for Valor awards during a Friday, Dec. 6
Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the adjutant
general of New York, honored the six members of the 106th
Rescue Wing's 103rd Rescue Squadron for heroism during a
Dec. 10, 2012, rescue mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The six men—Capt. Ronnie Maloney, of Middle Island;
Senior Master Sgt. Erik Blom, of Hampton Bays; Technical
Sgt. Anthony Yusup of Bloomsburg, Penn.; Staff Sgt. James
Dougherty of Rocky Point; Staff Sgt. Matthew Zimmer of
Westhampton; and Staff Sgt. Christopher Petersen of Commack,
then a senior Airman—were assigned to the 46th Expeditionary
Rescue Squadron Detachment of the 651st Air Expeditionary
Group, a part of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, at
Kandahar Air Field at the time.
F.S. GABRESKI AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y. – Six New York Air National Guardsmen who received the Bronze
Star with V for Valor during a award ceremony on Dec. 6, 2013 here
stand at attention with Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant
General of New York, and Col. Thomas Owens, the commander of the
106th Rescue Wing. They are (from left) Capt. Ronnie Maloney, of
Middle Island; Senior Master Sgt. Erik Blom, of Hampton Bays;
Technical Sgt. Anthony Yusup of Bloomsburg, PA; Staff Sgt. James
Dougherty of Rocky Point; Staff Sgt. Matthew Zimmer of Westhampton;
and Staff Sgt. Christopher Petersen of Commack, then a senior
Airman. All were assigned to the 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron
Detachment of the 651st Air Expeditionary Group, a part of the 451st
Air Expeditionary Wing, at Kandahar Air Field at the time. (U.S. Air
Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Muncy)
The New York Air
National Guard Airmen successfully treated and evacuated
three American Soldiers and one Afghan who had all been
critically injured when an improvised explosive device hit
their unit, a platoon of the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry
The Combat Rescue Officer and five
Pararescuemen, known collectively as Guardian Angels, flew
into a “hot” LZ and were under Taliban fire continuously,
from AK-47s, machineguns, and rocket propelled grenades, as
they called in helicopter gunship support, and provided
emergency medical care to the four men while shielding them
with their own bodies.
Along with receiving the
Bronze Star for Valor, their exploit was also honored as
“The Rescue Mission of the Year” for 2012 by the Jolly Green
Association, the professional association of serving and
retired members of Air Force Rescue.
The Bronze Star
with V device for valor is the fourth highest ranking Air
Force award for heroism.
“I'm extremely proud of
these men, “said Lt. Col. Shawn Fitzgerald, the commander of
the 103rd Rescue Squadron.” Their actions validate the hard
work they come in and do day-in and day-out.”
a Combat Rescue Officer and PJ (pararescue jumper) is
unique. We ask an incredible amount of both our full-time
and traditional Guardsmen. This is a validation of
everything they work so hard to achieve,” he added.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also praised the airmen.
“Today, we recognize the tremendous bravery of six New
York Air National Guardsmen who put their lives on the line
to protect the safety of others,” he said in a statement.
“Our Guard members have served admirably both in wars abroad
and during emergencies at home. The courage, clear thinking,
and selfless dedication of these six Airmen is a testament
to the incredible service of New York's Air National Guard.
On behalf of all New Yorkers, I offer my congratulations to
these brave men for this well-deserved honor.”
and Yusup are traditional Guard airmen who serve part-time.
Blom is a Suffolk County Police Officer, while Yusup is a
college student studying nursing.
Petersen, and Dougherty are full-time members of the 106th
Petersen was honored by the USO as
National Guardsman of the Year during the organization's
annual Gala on Oct. 25.
On Dec. 10, 2012 the six
103rd Rescue Squadron Airmen were the Guardian Angel team
assigned to man two HH-60 Pavehawk rescue helicopters—call
signs Pedro 61 and Pedro 62—flown by members of the 55th
Rescue Squadron, an Active Air Force unit. A friendly
platoon (about 25 Soldiers) had been ambushed and four
Soldiers – including one of the Americans who later
died—were very badly injured.
The friendly unit was
still under Taliban fire as the two helicopters approached
the scene. Pedro 62, the trail helicopter, moved into the
area to put the three-man team of Yusup, Dougherty, and
Petersen on the ground first.
As the helicopter
moved in to off load the three airmen it came under
machinegun fire which continued as the men moved to linkup
with the American and Afghan infantrymen who were sheltering
behind a mud wall. Two rocket propelled grenades hit the
ground five meters away from the Air Guardsmen as they began
to conduct triage on the wounded Soldiers.
leader of that three-man element, according to the official
citation, elected to remain in the open while exposed to
enemy fire so that he could control the casualty collection
point and direct timely casualty treatment.
and Peterson ignored the enemy fire and began immediate
treatment to save the lives of the injured men. When rocket
propelled grenades hit nearby they covered the wounded with
their own bodies.
Meanwhile, the lead helicopter
Pedro 61, landed to allow the other three Guardsmen:
Maloney, the Combat Rescue Officer; Blom, the team
noncommissioned officer in charge, and Zimmer.
three men ran across open ground, despite the enemy fire, to
help in treating and moving the casualties.
treated three patients with gunshot and shrapnel wounds and
also stabilized a gravely wounded American soldier who was
missing his legs and an arm. Blom took charge of the
casualty collection and treatment process while Maloney
avoided an enemy rocket propelled grenade and called in
support from the HH-60 Pavehawk helicopters and a pair of
Army Kiowa Warrior OH-58 helicopter gunships which also came
on station. He accurately directed the 50 caliber machine
gun fire and rocket fire on the enemy.
helicopter machine gun and rocket fire suppressed the enemy,
Blom passed along the plans for extraction and got the team
ready to move. Blom distributed his extra ammunition to the
ground troops while he and Maloney both took their places in
the firing line to suppress the enemy while the other four
Air Guardsmen helped the infantrymen move the wounded to the
waiting HH-60 helicopter.
Zimmer noted that one of
litter teams was having trouble moving over the rough
terrain and ran back to help them, risking his own life to
go into the open once more.
All four wounded soldiers
were evacuated back to the combat surgical hospital at
Kandahar Airfield. Unfortunately the triple amputee – Staff
Sgt. Wesley R. Williams, 25, of New Carlisle, Ohio, died
upon arriving there.
By USAF Senior Airman Christopher Muncy
Comment on this article