KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (8/3/2012) – Chief Warrant
Officer 2 Justin Callahan is currently on his eighth
deployment, flying C-12 aircraft in support of the 25th
Combat Aviation Brigade from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Justin Callahan, a pilot with
the Washington Regional Flight Center, currently attached to the
25th Combat Aviation Brigade, takes control of a C-12 Huron on
Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, July 16, 2012. Photo by Army Sgt.
Less than two years ago, he was told he may not fly aircraft
again, never run again and walk with a noticeable limp.
Sept. 3, 2010, while flying on a daily reconnaissance mission,
Callahan encountered small arms fire in an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior near
the Sanjaray village, Afghanistan.
“From out of nowhere, it
felt like a baseball bat smashed against my leg,” explained
Callahan, a C-12 Huron pilot with the Washington Regional Flight
Center, originally from Bloomsdale, Mo., currently attached to the
25th Combat Aviation Brigade.
During the engagement, one bullet went through his lower left
leg. Immediately he applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. He
then notified the other aircraft and his co-pilot that he was
Callahan made the decision to immediately fly to Forward
Operating Base Wilson for care, where medical personnel were
waiting at the Forward Arming Refueling Point to administer
treatment before being transported back to Kandahar
Airfield. Once at Kandahar, he was treated for a compound
fracture in his lower leg. The surgeons performed a
fasciotomy to relieve pressure in order to prevent
After he was transported to
Bagram to undergo more surgery, he received the Purple Heart
from Brig. Gen. Stephen Townsend, 101st Airborne Division
Deputy Commander. His final stop was at Ft. Lewis, Wash.,
where he would undergo the last of his surgeries and begin
his long road to recovery.
“During the recovery, the
nerve conduction test had me worried,” he remembered. “I was
told that I would never run again. I thought, I still have
my legs, I can walk, I can still be glad for that.”
During his recovery time, he received support from his
family and friends.
One close friend was Chief
Warrant Officer 3 Mariko Kraft, a pilot with the WRFC,
originally from Clarksville, Tenn., who was also an OH-58D
pilot the same time Callahan was.
“A lot of people
would have seen it as a set-back, start doubting themselves,
and feel sorry,” said Kraft. “He saw that he was still
fortunate to have his legs, to walk, and knew he could still
do a lot. He saw his injury as a small bump in the road to
get back to the fight.”
Callahan had deep motivated
reasons for wanting to be a pilot. Before Callahan became a
pilot, he served as a forward observer with the 1st Ranger
“I remember at the end of one particular
long mission in Afghanistan, a couple of helicopters came to
pick us up and I thought it was time for a career change,”
he stated. “As a Kiowa pilot, I got to see more of what was
going on than just my squad on the ground. Now I am helping
soldiers in a sticky situation. There is nothing like having
soldiers come in from the field and saying thank you for the
support we provided for them.”
for flying and supporting the guys on the ground can be
echoed by any of his co-workers.
“He was very
dedicated to supporting the ground guys,” Kraft said. “He
had added appreciation for what was happening on the ground.
We do what we can to make sure the guys on the ground get
home to their families and friends.”
While he was
participating in physical therapy, he was notified that if
he could recover he could take part in a fixed wing course
in approximately eight months.
“I was motivated to
get through physical therapy,” Callahan said. “I had to make
that fixed wing course; I had to get back to the aircraft.”
“I think he saw it as another challenge to overcome,”
He received his approval for flight
status a month before the class started.
what the doctors say be the last word for you,” Callahan
stated. “If you keep working on what you want, you never
know what is possible.”
By Army Sgt. Daniel Schroeder
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