'Instinct,' quick thinking earns Fort Rucker Aviator safety award
May 27, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Split-second decisions a Kiowa Warrior pilot made last year that minimized a dangerous aircraft incident and saved two lives earned him a U.S. Army Broken Wing Award.
Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center commanding general and director of Army Safety, presented CW3 Robert Minton the award May 24 at Hanchey Army Heliport.
"The (Broken Wing Award) recognizes Aviators who go above and beyond," Wolf said. "We have a very dangerous profession. When we can recognize excellence at the controls of Army aircraft, we need to do it."
A brief ceremony took place in Bldg. 50102S at Hanchey, where Minton is an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior instructor-pilot with C Troop, 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment.
Minton and his co-pilot were flying a night vision goggle readiness level progression mission May 12, 2009, over Fort Campbell, Ky. During the flight, Minton heard banging and humming coming from the Kiowa he was flying. Minton said he instinctively knew something was wrong.
What he initially thought was an engine failure turned out to be a driveshaft failure. At about 200 feet above ground level, and flying over trees at the time, he had very little time to react. Minton performed the proper emergency procedures, and within about 10 seconds, he and his co-pilot were safely on the ground, walking away without injury.
"This (award) is a fitting tribute to recognize this great aircraft commander and the airmanship he showed on that evening, getting that aircraft in a critical situation, under those conditions, safely on the ground," Wolf said.
Minton said he was humbled by receiving recognition for performing his job.
"It's a privilege and honor (to receive the Broken Wing), but the praise goes to everyday Aviators," Minton said. "We have Aviators who do extraordinary things every day, making decisions and (performing) life-risking jobs."
When he thinks back to the night of the incident, Minton attributes his knowledge of the emergency procedures he learned here in flight school many years ago to saving his life.
"It was instinctive. It wasn't panic. You just react as quickly as you can," he said.
C Troop Commander Capt. Anne McClain said she's honored to have Minton on her team, and said a Soldier "of his caliber" deserves recognition.
"Based on this experience, he will have the ability to teach his students something he could never learn in a classroom," she said. "This benefits students immensely and sets the standard."
Minton said he tries to impart the hands-on knowledge he learned from that night to those he flies with.
"(I tell them), continue to think. This is a thinking person's game. Make judgment calls and react," he said.
That ability to think clearly is what his wife, Sharon, said allows the couple to celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary June 8.
"He thinks before he reacts," she said. "I'm proud of him for what he does as a Soldier."
Minton joined the Army in 1990 as a tanker, Wolf noted. He transitioned to Aviation in 2002-2003 when he attended the Warrant Officer Candidate School and flight school.