KABUL, Afghanistan -- Five Soldiers from Company C, 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) were presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross during a ceremony held at the Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 5, 2019.
General Austin "Scott" Miller, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and Resolute Support commander, presented Capt. Benjamin Krzeczowski, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Cole, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Six, Sgt. Armando Yanez and Cpl. Emmanuel Bynum with the decoration for their heroic actions in support of U.S. Army forces on July 12, 2018.
"You are a very special breed," said Col. Matthew R. Weinshel, 101st CAB, 101st Abn. Div. commander, as Miller awarded the Soldiers with their medals. "You're the only airframe we put out there with absolutely zero protection in the worst possible conditions. Nonetheless, you go in each and every time and you do your job professionally, competently, and with valor, and I am proud of you all."
The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to any officer or enlisted person of the U.S. Armed Forces who has distinguished themselves in support of combat operations heroically or through extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.
The recipients displayed valor as they came under hostile fire while serving as part of the aeromedical evacuation crew of DUSTOFF 24, an HH-60 Black Hawk hospital helicopter. They refused to leave a wounded Soldier on the battlefield, completely disregarding their own safety.
While performing the evacuation, the crew was expecting one patient and the possibility of enemy in the area. As they landed, the crew began to take small arms fire. Six, a combat medic specialist, and Bynum, a helicopter repairer, provided security for the aircraft while Yanez, also a combat medic specialist, retrieved the patient. As Yanez returned with the patient, he also returned with a group of Soldiers who provided additional security while the patient was loaded onto the aircraft.
After the aircraft departed, Bynum witnessed one of the Soldiers take fire and drop to the ground. Masking themselves with an adjacent building, Krzeczowski, a helicopter pilot, successfully landed the aircraft onto a non-standard landing zone.
"The flight was my third or fourth mission with the medevac crew," said Bynum. "The training I received helped me to be situationally aware of the surroundings of the landing zone."
After landing, the Soldier who had taken fire and was wounded was loaded onto the aircraft. After the aircraft departed again, Cole, also a helicopter pilot, reported damage to it and that they needed to land as soon as possible. However, both patients were in critical condition, and the decision was made to continue the flight.
"As a medic in the Army, you are expected to handle situations such as these," said Six. "It's no different from any other job that operates within a high stress environment."
Krzeczowski stated that both hydraulic system modules were damaged by gunfire and were leaking fluid. As there was no safe landing zone, he made the decision to drive on and get the wounded to a proper care facility.