New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs Press release
CONTACT: Captain Michael O’Hagan:(cell) 609-234-2636
FOR RELEASE: Friday, Dec 06, 2013
ON SITE: Captain Michael O’Hagan:(cell) 609-234-2636

Six New York Air National Guard Members Receive Valor Awards For Courage in Afghanistan on Friday, Dec. 6

Media Advisory

FS GABRESKI AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, WESTHAMPTON BEACH, NY (12/05//2013)-- Six New York Air National Guard members will receive the Bronze Star for Valor during a ceremony on Friday, Dec 6 at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.

The six members of the 106th Rescue Wing's 103rd Rescue Squadron are being honored for the courage they showed under fire during a December 10, 2012 rescue mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The Combat Rescue Officer and five Pararescuemen, known collectively as Guardian Angels, flew into a "hot" LZ and were under continuous Taliban fire 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.

Members of the press are invited to attend.

WHO: 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.

WHAT: The presentation of the Bronze Star with V Device for valor. The Bronze Star with V is the fourth highest ranking United States military award for heroism. The six Airmen are being recognized for successfully treating and evacuating 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 Regiment, while under fire on Dec. 12, 2012. The award will take place during a 106th Rescue Wing formation of 400 to 500 Airmen

WHEN: 3 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6, 2013.Press should plan on arriving at 2:30 p.m.

WHERE: F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, Westhampton Beach, New York

Coverage Opportunities

Reporters will be able to interview the Airmen and New York National Guard leaders. Video and still imagery opportunities will include the award ceremony and Airmen in formation.

Members of the press seeking access to this secure military installation must contact Captain Michael O'Hagan at (cell) 609-234-2636 for access to this secure military facility.

BACKGROUND:

The incident on Dec. 12, 2012:

On Dec. 12 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-- being flown by members of the 55th Rescue Squadron, an Active Air Force unit. A friendly platoon (about 25 Soldiers) had been ambushed and the 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.

Yusup, the 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.

Dougherty 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.

All three men ran across open ground, despite the enemy fire, to help in treating and moving the casualties.

Zimmer 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 machinegun fire and rocket fire on the enemy.

When the helicopter machinegun 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.

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.

"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."

"Being 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.

Blom 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.

Maloney, Zimmer, Petersen, and Dougherty are full-time members of the 106th Rescue Wing.

Petersen was honored by the USO as National Guardsman of the Year during the organization's annual Gala on Oct. 25.

Captain Ronnie S. Maloney:

Captain Ronnie S. Maloney, age 43, is assigned as a Team Commander in the New York Air National Guard's 103rd Rescue Squadron. He is a full-time member of the 106th Rescue Wing.

He served previously as an enlisted Soldier in the Army and an officer in the Army National Guard. While a member of the Army National Guard he deployed to Iraq in 2004.

In March of 2008, he transferred from the Army National Guard to the 103rd Rescue Squadron to become a Combat Rescue Officer.

While at Pararescue School he was recognized with the Lt Col Don Flickinger Award for outstanding leadership.

Captain Ronnie S. Maloney: Citation

Captain Ronnie S. Maloney distinguished himself by outstanding achievement as the Guardian Angel Team Commander, 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Detachment 1, 651 Air Expeditionary Group, 451 Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan on 10 December 2012. On that date, Captain Maloney successfully led his team on a high risk casualty evacuation of four soldiers critically wounded by an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. They were inserted, via HH-60 helicopters, to an open field where they received small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire from an enemy location 60 meters away. Captain Maloney directed his men to take cover along a mud wall 50 meters to his south; once there he requested fire support from the HH-60's in order to suppress the enemy fire.'

Barely avoiding an enemy rocket propelled grenade explosion, he maneuvered along the wall to secure the casualty collection point and confirm accountability of his team and the wounded. Captain Maloney immediately assessed the security situation while his team triaged, treated and packaged the critically wounded patients. The HH-60's and a flight of two Kiowa attack helicopters fired 50 caliber machine guns and 2.75 inch rockets in order to suppress the enemy fire and create a window of opportunity for Captain Maloney to evacuate the wounded. He requested immediate extraction from the HH-60's and without regard for his personal safety, risked exposure to fill a gap in security and initiate covering fire.

With the enemy suppressed, he directed his team members to carry the wounded to the helicopter for immediate extraction. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Captain Maloney reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Senior Master Sergeant Erik S. Blom:

Senior Master Sergeant Erik S. Blom, age 37, is assigned to the 103rd Rescue Squadron as a Guardian Angel Team Leader.

He joined the Army in 1994 and graduated from both Airborne and Ranger school before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 2000.

He has served in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan.

Senior Master Sergeant Erik S. Blom: Citation

Senior Master Sergeant Erik S. Blom distinguished himself by outstanding achievement as Pararescue Team Leader, 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Detachment 1, 651 Air Expeditionary Group, 451 Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan on 10 December 2012. On this date, Sergeant Blom was tasked with executing a high risk casualty evacuation mission of four coalition soldiers critically wounded by an improvised explosive device and small arms ambush.

Sergeant Blom inserted via HH-60 helicopter into small arms and machine gun fire and moved across an open field to link up with the rest of his team who were inserted minutes earlier. While exposed to enemy fire and with rocket propelled grenades exploding within feet of him, Sergeant Blom maintained control of the chaotic situation by establishing a casualty collection point from where he could best direct the team. Sergeant Blom then courageously traversed an open area to assemble with his commander where he passed vital information. With the enemy momentarily suppressed by overhead air assets, he disseminated the extraction plan for the casualties and ensured the team was prepared to move to the helicopter.

Sergeant Blom expertly noticed a gap in the security perimeter and maneuvered to a firing position behind a mud berm. From this position, he redistributed his ammunition amongst the depleted forces and directed suppressive fire at the enemy in order to facilitate the movement of the wounded to the awaiting helicopter. Sergeant Blom's tenacious leadership resulted in the immediate life sustaining treatment and successful extraction of four casualties from the battlefield. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Blom reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Staff Sergeant James J. Dougherty:

Staff Sergeant James J. Dougherty, age 29, is assigned to the 103rd Rescue Squadron as a Guardian Angel Element Leader. Dougherty has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan

Staff Sergeant James J. Dougherty: Citation

Staff Sergeant James J. Dougherty distinguished himself by outstanding achievement as Pararescue Team Member, 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Detachment 1, 651 Air Expeditionary Group, 451 Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan on 10 December 2012. On that date, Sergeant Dougherty successfully prosecuted the high risk casualty evacuation of four coalition soldiers critically wounded by an improvised explosive device and small arms fire.

Immediately upon stepping off the helicopter, Sergeant Dougherty began taking effective small arms fire from an enemy position only 60 meters away. Under enemy fire, he negotiated across 50 meters of open terrain to reach the wounded soldiers. In the midst of the chaos on the ground, Sergeant Dougherty immediately identified the most severely injured soldier, and crawled to his location.

He assessed the soldier's injuries and instinctively began life-saving treatment. Sergeant Dougherty was treating the soldier when an enemy rocket propelled grenade detonated just 10 meters away. Instead of seeking cover, Sergeant Dougherty used his own body to protect the soldier from the blast and debris. Undeterred by the increasing intensity of the firefight, Sergeant Dougherty remained exposed in the field to provide continued medical care and ready his patient for evacuation.

With disregard for his personal safety, Sergeant Dougherty carried the wounded soldier across open terrain to the awaiting helicopter. Sergeant Dougherty's selfless dedication and composure under fire were crucial for the successful evacuation of four critically wounded soldiers. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Dougherty reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Petersen

Staff Sgt. Christopher Petersen, age 28, is currently a Pararescue Journeyman assigned to the 103rd Rescue Squadron as a full-time Guard member.

While attending Pararescue School he was honored with the Charles D. King Award for top academic performer, the Purple Heart Association Award for top medic, and the prestigious Jason D. Cunningham Award. Petersen has over 85 combat missions spanning combat deployments to Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Petersen: Citation

Senior Airman Christopher D. Petersen distinguished himself by outstanding achievement as Pararescue Team Member, 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Detachment 1, 651 Air Expeditionary Group, 451 Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan on 10 December 2012. On that date, Airman Petersen was tasked with the high risk casualty evacuation of four coalition soldiers severely wounded in an enemy ambush by an improvised explosive device and small arms fire.

As Airman Petersen departed his helicopter, he began taking effective small arms fire from an enemy position only 60 meters away. Without hesitation Airman Petersen maneuvered across 50 meters of open terrain to reach the wounded soldiers. He assessed and treated multiple patients, undeterred by his exposure to the constant enemy fire. When a rocket propelled grenade impacted within feet of his location, Airman Petersen selflessly used his own body to shield an injured soldier from the blast and debris. Remaining exposed, Airman Petersen continued to provide medical care to his patients in the open field and readied them for evacuation while avoiding the unrelenting enemy fire.

With disregard for his own personal safety, Airman Petersen carried one of the wounded soldiers back across the open terrain to the landing zone when his helicopter finally returned. In the face of an enemy with a fierce determination to destroy the rescue force, Airman Petersen's conviction to provide care to those most desperate in need was crucial for the successful evacuation of four critically wounded soldiers from the battlefield.

The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Airman Petersen reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Technical Sergeant Anthony D. Yusup

Technical Sergeant Anthony D. Yusup, age 31, is assigned to the 103rd Rescue Squadron as a Guardian Angel Recovery Team Leader.

He joined the Army after graduating in 2000. While in the Army he graduated Army Basic Training, Infantry School, Airborne School, Ranger Indoctrination Program, and Ranger School.

Yusup deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM in 2003 as an Airborne Ranger assigned to 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 2003 attaining the rank of Specialist.

After leaving the Army in the fall of 2003, Sergeant Yusup immediately joined the New York Air National Guard to become a pararescueman. He distinguished himself as the Honor Graduate while attending the Pararescue Indoctrination Course in 2004. He then completed the Army Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course, Air Force Survival School, Military Freefall School, Paramedic School, and the Pararescue Apprentice Course in 2005.

Technical Sergeant Anthony D. Yusup: Citation

Technical Sergeant Anthony D. Yusup distinguished himself by outstanding achievement as Pararescue Element Leader, 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Detachment 1, 651 Air Expeditionary Group, 451 Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan on 10 December 2012. On that date, Sergeant Yusup was tasked with a high-risk mission to rescue four critically wounded soldiers that had been injured in an improvised explosive device and small arms ambush.

His helicopter immediately started to receive enemy machine gun fire from a fortified enemy position only 60 meters away. Upon landing, Sergeant Yusup courageously led his three man element through an open field to link up with the ground forces. Sergeant Yusup quickly assessed the situation and directed his element to locate and triage the wounded when a rocket propelled grenade impacted only 10 meters away.

Without regard for his own personal safety, Sergeant Yusup elected to remain in the open while exposed to enemy fire in order to control the casualty collection point and direct timely casualty treatment. Exhibiting superb situational awareness, Sergeant Yusup directed the movement of a wounded soldier from the back blast area of a 90 millimeter rocket being fired, preventing further injury.

Sergeant Yusup then led his element to the landing zone where they were extracted with all of the critically injured patients. Sergeant Yusup's courageous and decisive actions under continuous enemy fire as well as his sound leadership facilitated the extraction of four critically wounded soldiers.

The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Yusup reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Staff Sergeant Matthew F. Zimmer:

Staff Sergeant Matthew F. Zimmer, age 31, is assigned to the 103rd Rescue Squadron as a Guardian Angel Pararescue Team Member.

He joined the Air Force in 2001 and previously served as aSurvival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialist at Fairchild AFB from 2002 until 2007. Zimmer joined the New York Air National Guard in 2009 and graduated from the Pararescue Apprentice Course in April of 2011.

He was recently recognized as the NCO of the Quarter for the 4th Quarter in the 106th Rescue Wing.

Staff Sgt. Matthew F. Zimmer: Citation

Staff Sergeant Matthew F. Zimmer distinguished himself by outstanding achievement as Pararescue Team Member, 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Detachment 1, 651 Air Expeditionary Group, 451 Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan on 10 December 2012. On that date, Sergeant Zimmer was tasked with a high-risk mission to rescue four critically wounded soldiers that had been injured by an improvised explosive device and small arms ambush.

Sergeant Zimmer's helicopter immediately came under direct enemy small arms and machine gun fire and narrowly avoided a rocket propelled grenade fired at it. Upon landing, Sergeant Zimmer ran across an open field to meet the rest of his team when another rocket propelled grenade detonated less than 10 meters away. Undeterred and without hesitation, he set out to locate and treat the wounded despite the ongoing fire fight. While crawling, he treated three patients that had sustained gunshot and shrapnel wounds as well as a gravely injured soldier with three amputated limbs.

Sergeant Zimmer later noticed that a litter team carrying one of the casualties to the awaiting helicopter was having difficulty moving through the rough terrain to get to the landing zone. Voluntarily, and without regard for his own personal safety, he ran into the open field under enemy fire to assist the team, and then bravely crossed back, returning to the wounded.

His aggressive actions, disregard for his own personal safety and his ability to calmly treat the wounded in the face of continuous enemy fire were instrumental in the evacuation of four coalition soldiers from the battlefield.

The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Zimmer reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

© NYS DMNA Press Release:Six New York Air National Guard Members Receive Valor Awards For Courage in Afghanistan on Friday, Dec. 6
URL: http://dmna.ny.gov/pressroom/?id=1386076205
Page Last Modified: Dec 03, 2013