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Valor Awards Go To MEDEVAC Crew
by Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon - November 19, 2011

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From left to right, Maj. Graham Bundy, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher DeOliveira, Staff Sgt. Erin Gibson, and Sgt. Robert Wengeler, all with C Company, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. All four Army Commendation Medals for valor Nov. 11, 2011 for saving two critically-injured French soldiers while under fire in the Tagab valley on Sept. 7, 2011. Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon
From left to right, Maj. Graham Bundy, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher DeOliveira, Staff Sgt. Erin Gibson, and Sgt. Robert Wengeler, all with C Company, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. All four Army Commendation Medals for valor Nov. 11, 2011 for saving two critically-injured French soldiers while under fire in the Tagab valley on Sept. 7, 2011. Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon
 BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — A French platoon-sized element was guarding a small compound, Sept. 7, when an insurgent threw a grenade over the wall.

“Yesterday was hell,” said Maj. Cyrille, a French medical officer in a Sept. 8 letter.

The explosion killed one, and injured one other. As insurgents continued to attack, another French soldier was shot through the throat.

Since they were almost a mile from the main supply route and the only way to get there was a treacherous journey by foot over rocky terrain, they called in an American helicopter to carry the injured soldiers out.

For their actions that day, four U.S. soldiers received Army Commendation Medals for valor, Nov. 11, for saving the lives of the two critically-wounded French troops in the Tagab Valley, Kapisa province.

The medical evacuation crew arrived overhead within minutes, only to find a battle still raging below. There was little hope the French soldiers would survive without their help.

U.S. Army Maj. Graham Bundy and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher DeOliveira, both with C Company, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, made the decision to land.

“The only thing running through your mind at that point is that there are people down there who need our help,” said Bundy, of
Holly Springs, N.C. “You have to get to them; you can't fail.”

Sgt. Robert Wengeler, of Cheney, Wash., provided security while Staff Sgt. Erin Gibson, a flight medic, climbed out of the helicopter and ran to the patients.

“I didn't even think about the danger at the time,” said Gibson, of Covington, Ohio. “I just knew there were two hurt guys out there that needed my help and I had to get them on my helicopter.”

Gibson triaged the patients, had them loaded, and had the pilots lifting the wheels of the helicopter off the ground in less than four minutes.

“We witnessed the incredible courage of the U.S. Army as you made an air evacuation under fire only 200 meters from our position,” said Cyrille. “Because of your actions, our Soldiers are still alive.”

“When I heard what the crew did that night, I was in awe of their bravery and commitment to never leave a fallen comrade, whether it be American or not,” said Col. T.J. Jamison, commander, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. “These soldiers truly exemplify the warrior ethos.”

Gibson has a much more modest view of what happened.

“Really, I'm just doing my job like any soldier” said Gibson.

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon
Combined Joint Task Force 1 - Afghanistan
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2011

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