Dustoff crew wins Air/Sea Rescue award for mission in Afghanistan

By Sgt. Amanda Jo BrownFebruary 3, 2012

TF Phoenix practices hoist operations
Soldiers from C Company "Dustoff," Task Force Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, practice the most dangerous patient extraction method using their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter's hoist during their recent deployment to Regional Command - East in su... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 2, 2012) -- An aviation crew with C Company "Dustoff," Task Force Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, recently earned an Army Aviation Association of America National Award for a mission conducted in June 2011 in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

The Air/Sea Rescue of the Year award was presented to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Erik Sabiston, pilot in command, Jan. 25 at Fort Rucker, Ala.

According to AAAA, the requirements for this award are defined as "a crew or crew member who performs a rescue using a personnel rescue hoist that saved the life or eased the suffering of an individual."

Sabiston recalled the events that occurred last June as if it were only yesterday, rattling off the statistics and descriptions that ultimately earned him and his team the award.

Members of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, found themselves stuck in a violent firefight in the Kunar Province. For a day and a half, Sabiston and his team provided the ground force with more than just medical evacuations.

"A (CH-47) Chinook attempted to get them supplies, but they got hit," Sabiston recalled. "We were the only ones who were able to resupply them."

The team conducted more than 10 hoists for the wounded and fallen heroes.

During the first day, Sgt. Julia Bringloe, a medic, was descending on the hoist during a night extraction. The pilots were flying under dark conditions that made it extremely difficult to see, even through night vision goggles. On her descent, the hoist swung her into a tree.

She was unaware at the time that she had broken her leg.

Sabiston said that Bringloe continued completing each hoist mission unprotected while enemy fire cascaded all around her.

"It was Bringloe who was amazing (through the mission)," Sabiston said. "She continued extracting patients under fire even with a fractured leg."

He explained that Bringloe, like most medics, care more about the patients on the ground than their own well-being.

The crew also was faced with the challenge of flying blindly to perform a rescue.

Sabiston explained that, during another hoist mission, the entire aircraft was engulfed in clouds while they were flying at approximately 10,000 feet. They were unable to see anything to make the rescue, which made it extremely dangerous.

Bringloe was once more eased down on the hoist to retrieve a Soldier. Neither the crew nor medic could see one another when she and the patient were hanging approximately 50 feet below the aircraft.

The experienced medic told the patient to hold on, since she knew the pilots would need to gain enough altitude to clear the cloud ceiling. After Sabiston reached 12,000 feet, they finally retrieved the medic and the patient.

Regardless of the many challenges the crew faced and overcame that day, Sabiston humbly implied that the award could have been awarded to any of the crews due to the duty and selfless service that thrives within the unit.

"We didn't expect to receive an award for our actions," he said. "It is a great honor, but anyone in this unit would have done the same. I just happened to be the one flying at the time with the crew."

Brown is a member of Task Force Phoenix.

Related Links:

Army.mil: Human Interest News

Army.mil: Women in the U.S. Army

10th Combat Aviation Brigade

10th Combat Aviation Brigade on Facebook