By Staff Sgt. Tabitha Lee, U.S. Air ForceSeptember 13, 2012
BERLIN -- Two U.S. Army Europe aviation crew members were honored on the opening day of the Berlin Air Show for their part in heroic efforts that saved 12 German soldiers in Afghanistan in 2010.
The Americans received awards for valor from the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Sept. 11.
The awards were presented by Robert Kokorda, Sikorsky's vice president for sales and marketing. U.S. Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy, Gen. Philip Breedlove, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa commander, and Sergei Sikorsky, son of aerospace pioneer and Sikorsky founder Igor Sikorsky, were present for the event.
Awardees Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Lacrosse, who was a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot at the time of the rescue and is now an instructor pilot with the Falcon team at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, and Sgt. Antonio Gattis, a flight medic with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment in Landstuhl, Germany, were part of the team of 14 USAREUR Soldiers who took part in the rescue. Just weeks after the rescue the Soldiers were awarded the Bundeswehr's highest honor for a single act of valor, the Ehrenkreuz in gold.
"To have the company give me an award, as a Black Hawk pilot, I got teary eyed," Lacrosse said. "I was just a soldier doing my job."
"It was a huge honor to receive the award," said Gattis. "It was overwhelming."
Three of the German soldiers that were rescued during that 2010 mission and German army Feldwebel (the equivalent of a U.S. Army staff sergeant) Patrick Bonneik, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller who was involved in the operation, attended the Sikorsky award presentation here.
Bonneik expressed his admiration for the American soldiers who rescued his comrades and their recognition by the aircraft industry.
"It's an honor to see their heart, dedication and perfect service," Bonneik said.
It has been more than two years since the mission and the bonds between the soldiers are still strong.
"Every time I see them again, it's like we are old friends," Gattis said.