12 May 2009

Who is your hero?

As part of the TweetToRemind campaign (mentioned yesterday), on Tuesday, May 12 bloggers and Tweeters are asked to show their support through a simple blog or tweet answering the question, "Who is your hero?" and encourage others to do the same. Here's my first post about some of my heroes. I'll definately be doing more during the course of the campaign.

I have many heroes, but I have to start with the DUSTOFF crews. These heroes perform countless acts of professionalism, selfless service and dedication to duty on a daily basis. From the original story:

The Crew Chief operates the hoist, as he pulls a casualty into the aircraft. This is a one person operation that is difficult to perform when the casualty is in a SKED, especially when the casualty has the added weight of body armor and equipment. The Medic rides the hoist to the ground and back up, time and time again.

Imagine performing this operation 20-25 continuous times wearing Night Vision Goggles (NVGs), the Crew Chief continuing to advise the pilots of aircraft drift and rotor clearance as the mountain side is dangerously close.

He ensures the hoist is ready for the next lift and watches the Medic's hand and arm signals as he also directs the positioning of the aircraft. It becomes apparent this task is physically exhausting and difficult to master in routine conditions, let alone this punishing-unforgiving terrain at night.

The cabin of the aircraft becomes crowded, and the difficulty the Crew Chief and the Medic have maneuvering recovered personnel inside becomes increasingly challenging. Dust-off has a crew of 4: Pilot, Copilot, Crew Chief, and Medic.
Anyone that has operated in this environment understands the difficulty of the job these heroes do for us on a moments notice without hesitation under trying conditions and daunting circumstances. Not once do they ask for gratitude or thanks.

Here is one of these heroes.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Kinney, a flight medic, treats a wounded U.S. soldier while Staff Sgt. James Frailey, a helicopter crew chief, looks on. An Afghan soldier, in the rear, was wounded. Photo and story: Michael Gisick / S&S.

Matt Kinney has served twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. During one mission alone, Kinney single-handedly treated five critical patients inflight: controlling bleeding, administering pain control, dressing wounds and starting intravenous drips. Their injuries included partial amputations, femoral bleeding, and gunshot and shrapnel wounds.

All that was after an ambush at the landing zone, during which Kinney not only returned fire himself but also called in Apache fire to the location of an enemy heavy machine gun. According to his Silver Star citation, his actions are credited with saving the lives of soldiers on the ground, as well as those of the entire medevac crew who were hovering over the kill zone.

Sgt. Matthew Kinney, 6th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, was awarded the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross in the same ceremony. Photo: Spc. George Welcome / ARMY Staff

"I don't feel like I have earned my awards... we were just doing our jobs and go whenever we are called. And the fact that it comes at the price of others being hurt does not make it any better."
- SSG Matthew Kinney

And that's why Matt Kinney and all of our DUSTOFF crews are my heroes.

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