By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterApril 26, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 26, 2012) -- Friends and Family members gathered at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center for a ceremony to recognize and honor one of its extraordinary Aviators April 17.
CW3 Gabriel Torney, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command capability manager for reconnaissance and attack, received the Army Aviation Broken Wing Award for performing with extraordinary skill, judgment and technique during an in-flight emergency in spite of extreme circumstances that might have led to catastrophic results, according to the citation that was read during the ceremony, which added that the successful landing was achieved through the application of the "highest degree of proficiency and discretion."
"I'm very honored to receive this award," said Torney. "It's one of those awards that you don't really want to get, like the Purple Heart, but it still gives you [a good feeling]."
Brig. General William T. Wolf, director of Army Safety and commanding general of the U.S Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, presented the award to Torney and reminded people why recognition such as this is important.
"It's our recognition of great Aviator excellence," he said. "This is about [Torney] and what he did that day -- saving the aircraft, saving himself and the efforts to save his entire crew. This opportunity is to recognize, not only excellence in Aviation as an Aviator, but also as a great hero."
Torney said his crew was on a mission in Tal Afar, Iraq, when his aircraft, an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter, came under heavy fire where his pilot in command was fatally wounded and he had to take command of the aircraft.
"They were within a moment of losing it," said Wolf. "Gabe took shrapnel and bullet wounds, but with all of the wounds he had to his face, legs and arms, he still kept control of his aircraft and safely landed it back at the site where they could give him care. He took control of that aircraft and really made it happen for his crew to keep that aircraft safe.
"This great gentleman really saved the day in an effort to not only try and salvage his aircraft and himself, but his entire crew," said Wolf."
Torney went on to speak about his father, who passed away in recent years, and how he was very into promotions and award ceremonies.
"He was real big on [attending] ceremonies in dress uniforms so I really appreciate being able to receive the award in my dress uniform," he said. "It means a lot to me."
While Torney told the story of how he came to be recognized for the Broken Wing award, he said that he remembered Darrell Green, former National Football League player and Hall of Famer.
"[Green] always talked about you've got to be ready for that 'right now' moment," he said. "That was my 'right now' moment sitting up there [in that aircraft].
"The Army does a really good job of training [Soldiers] for that 'right now' moment," said Torney. "[My training] is a testament to the Army being really able to prepare people for that."
He also said the Army makes sure that pilots can recognize the seven indications of engine failure when flying an aircraft, but the one indication that they don't teach is the sudden sinking sensation that you're falling out of the sky, adding that it's the first indication that a pilot will always get.
"While I was flying, one of the first things that popped up was that my engine was out," he said. "I got the audio [indication] and the message registered, but I thought 'well if it's not going to fall out of the sky and it's going to keep flying me, then I'm going to keep flying it.' If there is anything that any [other pilots] can take away from this, it's that if the aircraft keeps flying you, then just keep flying it and that will get you through and get you around to what you need to do."