AAAA DUSTOFF Medic of the Year

By Sgt. Daniel SchroederMarch 11, 2013

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - A flight medic from Company C, 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, was presented with the 2012 Army Aviation Association of America DUSTOFF Medic of the Year Award at the Fort Rucker Senior Leader's Conference at Fort Rucker, Ala., Jan. 29.

Staff Sgt. Jose Pantoja, C/3-25th AVN, 25th CAB, originally from Bridgeport, Texas, received this award for his actions during his deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 12-13.

"I am very honored to receive this award," said Pantoja.

During his time in Afghanistan, Pantoja rotated to the most kinetic, geographically dispersed MEDEVAC sites throughout Regional Command South. While at the remote locations, Pantoja's tactical and technical expertise were employed rigorously to execute the most dynamic and challenging mission sets.

One instance where his skills were needed was when his crew responded to a civilian casualty (CIVCAS) in the Panjawa'i district. In the early morning hours, March 11, 2012, Pantoja loaded and treated three critically wounded Afghans, a father and his two daughters, 12 and seven years old. Pantoja immediately administered care to the youngest daughter suffering from a head wound.

Despite the grave conditions of the patients, all three patients survived the incident as a result of his medical dexterity.

"Everything [MEDEVAC personnel] do affect the lives of everyone we pick up," Pantoja said.

Another situation that tested Pantoja was a mass casualty mission on June 7, 2012. The initial call was for three U.S. soldiers wounded by an improvised explosive device blast. Upon arriving, Pantoja exited the aircraft and began moving the patients to the aircraft. While moving patients, he observed a second IED blast that knocked him off his feet into the aircraft.

The IED disabled the litter team heading to the aircraft. Pantoja called for immediate departure to avoid damage to the aircraft and crew and allow for the ground forces to secure the landing zone. Without the aerial security of a scout weapons team, the crew landed again to load the nine casualties at the landing zone and proceeded to the Combat Support Hospital in Kandahar.

The care given by Pantoja and his quick decisions saved the lives of the nine soldiers wounded in a constantly evolving and dangerous combat environment. These were just two situations where Pantoja's expertise was required.

His actions during the deployment both in and out of the aircraft contributed to the overwhelming success of the Lightning DUSTOFF mission in Afghanistan.