12/5/2005 - WASHINGTON -- TwoHH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter aircrews received the Clarence McKay Trophytoday for rescuing five Soldiers whose helicopter crashed in asandstorm near Kharbut, Iraq, in April 2004.
The Airmen, from the 41st and 38th rescue squadrons at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., are:
--Capts. Bryan Creel, Joseph Galletti and Robby Wrinkle
--1st Lt. Gregory Rockwood
--Tech. Sgts. Michael Preston, Thomas Ringheimer and Paul Silver
--Staff Sgts. Vincent J. Eckert, John Griffin, Edward Ha, Patrick Ledbetter, Matthew Leigh and Michael Rubio.
TheArmy CH-47 Chinook helicopter was part of a three-ship re-supplymission April 16, 2004, when they ran into a sandstorm 70 milessoutheast of Baghdad. The first and third helicopters were able toclimb out.
The second helicopter tried to land to avoid anypossible mid-air collisions. But, when the helicopter touched down, theright landing gear collapsed and the helicopter rolled onto its side.
CaptainCreel and the Jolly 11 crew -- from the 41st -- got the call for thecombat rescue operation. Despite intelligence reports of possible enemythreats -- and a raging sandstorm -- they, along with the Jolly 12 crewfrom the 38th RQS were airborne within 45 minutes.
While enroute to the crash site, Captain Creel and his wingman, CaptainWrinkle, realized they would have to alter their flying to get to thedowned aircrew. The sandstorm wreaked havoc and rendered their infraredand night vision goggles ineffective -� leaving the pilots to fly byinstruments.
On their first approach, they flew right over thedowned Soldiers. The two helicopters circled around and Captain Creelset down. Captain Wrinkle�s helicopter provided cover and then landedso its pararescue team could help.
�I think they were worriedwe weren�t going to go in for them,� Captain Wrinkle said. �Once theywere on board, they were quiet, solemn. I think they were just glad tobe rescued.�
Their perils were not over when the survivorswere on board. On their way back to base, the helicopters came underattack and evaded several surface-to-air missiles and small arms fire.
�Combatsearch and rescue is a double-edged sword,� Captain Creel said. �Wewant to go out and do our mission. But if we have to, it means someoneneeds our help and might be hurt.�
Captain Creel was in awe ofthe prestige of the trophy when he saw it at the National Air and SpaceMuseum -- especially after he saw the names of aviation pioneers andAir Force generals Chuck Yeager and Jimmy Doolittle on the trophy.
�To know we�re in the same category as some of them is just a great honor,� he said.
TheAir Force and National Aeronautic Association present the McKay Trophyto Airmen or an organization involved in the �most meritorious flightof the year.� The trophy was first awarded in 1911 and is on display atthe National Air and Space Museum.