LINCOLN, Neb.—Four Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk crew members with Company G, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion were honored at a ceremony in Lincoln today with the DUSTOFF 2019 Rescue of the Year award for their heroic rescues during Nebraska’s historic floods in 2019.
The DUSTOFF Rescue of the Year award was instituted in 1995 as a part of efforts to recognize the current generation of DUSTOFF Warriors. The first two awards presented were the DUSTOFF Crewmember of the Year and the Rescue of the Year. While the majority of awards for the rescue of the year have been made to missions flown in combat there are instances of peace-time missions receiving the award.
This year’s award-winning crew included:
- Chief Warrant Officer 3 Josh Schaaf, Pilot in Command
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nathan Dooley, Pilot
- Staff Sgt. Lawrence Lind, Medic
- Sgt. Aaron Winberg, Crew Chief
The crew also received the state’s first four Nebraska National Guard Commendation Medals with “V” device for Valor, after Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed an executive order on June 29, 2020, establishing the new award for distinguishing specific acts of bravery.
On the evening of March 14, 2019, these Soldiers successfully conducted multiple search and rescue missions, including that of seven first responders near Arlington, Nebraska. The crew pulled the seven firefighters from the floodwaters near the Elkhorn River after two of their boats capsized during a rescue attempt. The firefighters were then transported to the hospital where they were treated for hypothermia and released.
“I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish,” said Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, Nebraska adjutant general. “To be here to help our neighbors; to help the folks that we live and work with every day in this state is a humbling thing, but one in which we at the same time take great pride in being able to be part of the team from all across the state that helped everyone that they could to survive.”
The DUSTOFF Executive Council votes on award submissions. Each member of the council is a veteran of DUSTOFF. Most have served in combat flying in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and all over the world.
Representing the DUSTOFF Association was BG (Retired Dennis Doyle, a member of the DUSTOFF Hall of Fame. Representing the corporate sponsor of the Rescue of the Year Award was Tom Nicolett, a long-time friend of DUSTOFF.
Additional pictures from the ceremony can be viewed online at the following link:
Also receiving an award from the DUSTOFF Association was CPT Samuel Stalons, the DUSTOFF Aviator of the Year. In a ceremony at Fort Bragg, COL Retired Merle Snyder presented his with the trophy honoring his selection as the Aviator of the Year. CPT Stalons started his career much like Merle did, as a Warrant Officer Aviator. As a young CW2 he took his career into his hands and returned to rescue wounded Soldiers in a single-ship mission, saving the life of the patients. Initially facing at the very least a removal of his flight qualifications, he stood his ground stating “Well, did they survive?” He now serves as a Medical Service Corps Officer with C/3-82 Aviation Regiment but will soon PCS to Fort Hood. Proud to have you continuing the legacy of MAJ Charles Kelly. Thanks to Merle Snyder for making the trip from the DC area to Fort Bragg to make this presentation on behalf of the DUSTOFF Association.
On October 15, 2020, after waiting for C/3-10 to return from Afghanistan, COL (R) Merle Snyder and his wife, Dianne, made the trek to Fort Drum New York to make the final presentation for our 2020 Awards Program. SGT Eric Cook was awarded the Crew Chief of the Year Award in a “socially distant” ceremony. SGT Cook previously served with C/3-82 deploying during 2014 and then arrived at Fort Drum. He learned medical skills in addition to UH-60 repair and maintenance tasks. On multiple Point-of-Injury missions he was an essential extension of the skills of the Flight Paramedics of the unit. He serves as one of two Technical Inspectors (TI’s) in the unit’s maintenance program. According to his commander, “The leadership and expertise displayed by SGT Cook is directly impacting unit mission readiness each day by maintaining a superior overall operational readiness rate of 90%. Even with the challenges inherent to split operations, minimal personal and austere maintenance operations, SGT Cook’s knowledge of maintenance, exceptional leadership ability and selfless service allows the unit to remain expeditionary and subsequently support U.S., NATO and Afghan ground forces to continue to pull missions in austere areas of Afghanistan to disrupt Taliban influence and support the Afghanistan government. All missions completed by Charlie Company, Task Force Knighthawk were directly enabled by the actions of SGT Cook as a maintenance NCO, superior leader and a non-rated air crew member. SGT Cook truly embodies the MEDEVAC mission and DUSTOFF legacy by surpassing the standard for not only Crew Chiefs, but NCOs across the Army.”
SSG Danielle Black was nominated by her previous unit, Charlie Company, 6-101st Aviation Regiment. She is now assigned to the US Army School of Aviation Medicine. On Friday, 22 January 2021, the DUSTOFF Association Former President and Hall of Fame member, COL Retired Bob Mitchell presented her with the Major Charles Kelly bust honoring her as the DUSTOFF Medic of the Year. The award was to have been presented at the 2020 reunion that was cancelled due to COVID. As you can tell, COVID remains a concern and further delayed her presentation date. Honoring her in the picture above is 1SG Branden Coughlin of the School of Aviation Medicine.
Throughout her career, SSG Black has not only trained to the highest standards, but also set the example for flight paramedics and non-rated crewmembers on every mission. Indeed, her abilities as a medic and a crewmember were critical to mission success on numerous occasions. In early October 2018, SSG Black answered the call to evacuate a U.S. Special Forces Soldier with a gunshot wound to the chest. Pinned down in a compound, the ground force requested a hoist extraction, certain there was no place for the aircraft to land. Given that the ground force had recently been in heavy contact, the crew instead looked for a place to land. Orbiting offset from the objective, SSG Black located an area where the aircraft could perform a one-wheel landing next to the compound. On the approach, SSG Black safely called the aircraft into the HLZ with one wheel contacting the ground. She then jumped out and received the patient, moving him quickly to the aircraft. Along with the litter team, SSG Black lifted the patient overhead and loaded him into the aircraft before climbing up and lifting herself inside. In flight, SSG Black provided all medical care and safely transferred the patient to the FST.
Her unwavering commitment to the health and welfare of critically wounded Soldiers and dedication to continuously improving MEDEVAC training greatly contributed to patient survivability throughout Afghanistan. Throughout her career, she has repeatedly faced incredible challenges and has risen to the occasion, expertly executing her duties as a flight medic and as a crewmember. SSG Danielle Black epitomizes the DUSTOFF motto, “When I have your wounded,” and was the clear choice for the DUSTOFF Association’s Medic of the Year Award.