Military News

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Face of Defense: Amputee Soldier Completes Air Assault School

By Army Sgt. Joe Padula
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., May 2, 2013 – For almost 12 miles, he has been carrying about 35 pounds of gear. He sees a clock in the near distance with red digital numerals closing in on the three-hour mark, the time limit for the near half-marathon march. He wants to sprint to the finish line, but his face winces with every right step taken. His breaths are heavy, and pain can be heard with each inhale.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Afghanistan combat veteran Army Sgt. 1st Class Greg Robinson is the first soldier with an amputated limb and prosthetic to complete the grueling Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Ky.
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
His left leg is in full stride, but his right leg -- amputated more than six years ago -- now pushes forward on a damaged prosthetic; a piston broke a few miles back, eliminating fluid motion. He picks up a faster, but still a limping, pace. Sweat drips into his eyes, and his fists are clenched tight as he approaches the finish line with two minutes to spare.

He stops before crossing, pulls out his canteen, pours water on his helmet and face. He takes a giant step with his left foot and says two words: "Air Assault." He then takes another step with his prosthetic, exhales and accomplishes his mission.

He has just completed the Army's Air Assault School, on one leg.
Sgt. 1st Class Greg Robinson, a 34-year old combat engineer assigned to 101st Airborne Division’s Company A, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, pinned on his Air Assault badge during a graduation ceremony at Sabalauski Air Assault School here April 29.
According to the school's records, Robinson is the first soldier with an amputated limb and prosthetic to complete the Air Assault School.

"It's a really good feeling, and I just hope this can inspire other amputees and other people with disabilities that they can accomplish things," said Robinson, who lost his lower right leg during a firefight while deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2006.

"My biggest thing today is to let that someone who is laying there wounded in that hospital bed know not to get down on yourself,” he said. “You can still continue despite missing a limb. A disability is only a disability if you let it hold you down."

The Army's Air Assault School is a 10-day course that qualifies soldiers to conduct air-assault helicopter operations, sling-load missions, fast roping and rappelling, and aircraft orientation. It ends with a fast-paced, heavy load, 12-mile march. Designed to push a service member's limits mentally and physically, it has been called the hardest 10 days in the Army.

"That was the toughest part, but it's over with now," Robinson said moments after completing the 12-miler. "I had problems with my leg during the Tough One, but fixed it and continued." An air valve was knocked off during the obstacle portion of the course.

The school's staff ensured that a professional standard was maintained in their grading of Robinson, and that there would be no bias for or against the amputee soldier.

"The instructors were a bit nervous when he first started, but they did their job just as if it were any other student. And on that note, I am very proud of them. They didn't see him as a disabled soldier and treated him just like anyone else coming to school to earn the Air Assault wings," said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Connolly, a senior instructor. "We are very proud of him, and I think others need to look at him as a mentor and an example of what you can accomplish when you set your mind on something."

Prior to attending the physically demanding school, Robinson needed a waiver from the unit's medical staff. Robinson's accomplishments continue to surprise and inspire those medics.

"Some of these guys never even learn to walk on a prosthesis, let alone go through the Air Assault course," said Capt. Gregory Gibson, the brigade nurse, who has worked with amputee soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., before coming to the Strike Brigade. "He's had this thing happen to him that most would see as a career-ender. He's a shining example that life can carry on."

Robinson's momentum continues as he now looks to attend the school's master rappel course, which qualifies Air Assault school graduates in the skills and techniques necessary to rappel from moving aircraft. His wounded friends are still in his thoughts.

"When I was at Walter Reed, I looked around [and] felt sad for myself, but the more I looked, the more I realized there were so many who had it harder, who had it worse than me -- triple amputee, a quad amputee -- and watching them work and push so hard inspired me," Robinson said. "A disability is only a disability if you let it hold you down."

PACAF Commander conducts transnational dialogue at APCSS

by Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs


5/2/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Pacific Air Forces, visited the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii recently, to discuss security cooperation in the Pacific theater and beyond with "international fellows" from several partner nations.

The APCSS, established Sept. 4, 1995, is a Department of Defense institute that addresses regional and global security issues while building relationships among future leaders and decision-makers within the region through a comprehensive program of executive education and conferences.

During the briefing, Carlisle discussed topics including PACAF strategy, the military's rebalance to the Asian-Pacific region, and the importance of transnational coordination and cooperation to overcome challenges.

"The size and diversity, the cultural differences, the climate differences, the environments that everyone lives in in the (Pacific) theater does make this a unique theater," he said. "Despite the differences, most nations understand that international cooperation when covering just about any threat is dependent upon interaction with your fellow nations. We know all these are the things we face every day."

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf, APCSS director, said involving Carlisle, as well as other PACOM component command leadership, is extremely beneficial to the international students who participate in APCSS events.

"We work closely with (Pacific Command) and all of the components to support their missions and conduct our work consistent with their priorities and objectives," he said. "We have been fortunate to have all of them participate in various events at the center."

One benefit of holding these kinds of transnational dialogues, Carlisle said, is the development of a shared strategy to overcome the borderless challenge of combating non-state actors.

"We still have sovereign issues on borders and state to state discussions," he said. "Non-state actors - piracy, terrorism, trafficking - do not. If we, as a group of nations, are going to deal with these things, we have to be more transparent. We have to be more interoperable and we have to work more closely together."

Leaf said APCSS alumni are currently leading countries as heads-of-state, chiefs of defense, and other key diplomatic and ministerial posts. With that in mind, he said, the exchange was valuable both for Carlisle and the international fellows.

"Exchanges give senior Air Force leadership the opportunity to get perspectives from a wide array of up-and-coming regional and world leaders," Leaf said. "Gen. Carlisle demonstrated the transparency that we stress in our courses, and gave direct answers to some very difficult questions. I believe that he left a lasting impression on the class, demonstrating the U.S. Air Force's commitment to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region."

When discussing how to devise a security strategy, Carlisle re-emphasized finding a way to work with neighboring nations - an endeavor that requires multiple parties to find common ground.

"The defense of your nation is largely dependent upon your ability to interact with nations around you. Building cooperation, building whatever common ground there is, building a strategy for what you want to look like in the future, and then bringing that to fruition," he said. "I can guarantee that every nation in this theater can find common ground. At the very least, (our shared) objective in life is to hand to our children, and our children's children, a better world to live in."

Kentucky Air Guard's Contingency Response Group named the top CR unit in the Air National Guard

by Senior Airman Vicky Spesard
123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs


4/30/2013 - KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group has been named the Air National Guard Contingency Response Unit of the Year for 2012.

The group was chosen for the honor over six other contingency response units, including five airlift control flights, said Col. Mark Heiniger, commander of the 123rd CRG.

He credited the group's recent performance in the movement of a Patriot Missile Battery for helping win the award. Airmen from the 123rd deployed to Oklahoma in December to prepare the battery for shipment to Turkey, eventually loading 21 aircraft with more than 300 personnel and over two million pounds of equipment in six days.

"That was a tremendously important mission because it helped ensure the Turkish government's self-defense capabilities in response to the ongoing Syrian civil war," he said.

The group also set new standards of excellence last spring when it moved a record amount of cargo while becoming the first contingency response unit in the Air Guard to be verified by the U.S. Transportation Command as fully capable of operating a Joint Task Force-Port Opening -- a logistics hub that combines an Air Force Aerial Port with an Army trucking and distribution unit.

"Getting the USTRANSCOM verification took a lot of work and effort from all members of the unit," said Maj. Ashley Groves, director of operations. "We are very proud of that accomplishment.

"Getting recognition from the National Guard Bureau is validation that our unit's willingness and ability to grow is important," he continued. "It takes each member of our unit working above and beyond their normal duties to achieve this award."

Described as an "airbase in a box," the 123rd CRG is designed to be an early responder in the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other major emergency.

It has all the personnel, training and equipment needed to deploy to a remote site, open a runway and establish airfield operations so aid can flow in.

The group, which was formally stood up just four years ago, is comprised of the 123rd Global Mobility Squadron and the 123rd Global Mobility Readiness Squadron. It provides personnel trained in command and control, aerial port operations, maintenance, security, logistics, fuels and intelligence.

Airmen from medical, finance, contracting, transportation, air operations and civil engineering are also elements of the award-winning group.

"The men and women in this unit are amazing," said Lt. Col. Dave Mounkes, deputy commander of the 123rd CRG. "We can call them at any hour, and they will respond immediately. When we get the call for assistance, our mandated response time is 36 hours, but our folks get it done in less than 24 hours."

It is this dedication and belief in the CRG mission that gained the attention of the National Guard Bureau.

"The 123rd CRG is a very strong group with a vast array of capabilities," said S. Scott Duke, chief of Airfield Operations Division at the NGB. "The airfield operations board was very pleased to select the unit and recommend that they compete at the national level for this prestigious award."

Sentry operators keep 'eyes in the sky'

by Senior Airman Maeson L. Elleman
18th Wing Public Affairs


5/1/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- In the quiet darkness surrounding the flightline here, the awaiting aircraft roars to life with an escalated screech, and cool air rushes to fill the newly-lit cabin.

As the chill meets the lingering humid air within the aircraft, a smoke-like fog diffuses into the nooks and crevices around the computer stations and throughout the cockpit.

While it sounds like a mysterious and menacing science fiction movie, this is a commonplace occurrence for the E-3 Sentry crew from the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron.

Once the airborne warning and control system takes toward the horizon and the dense fog begins to disperse, the cabin isn't the only thing that becomes more visible to the crew, but rather the entire encompassing airspace.

With its command and control capabilities and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft assigned to the unit opens the crew's and Kadena AB's eyes to virtually everything in the air. It's this capability that allows Kadena AB and other Air Force assets to project superior force for any contingency.

"If a contingency kicks off in the area, we're the eyes in the sky," said Maj. Cliff King, the 961st AACS electronic combat officer. "It's important to have AWACS in the sky for protection of our assets and allies in the region."

Operating as the largest overseas combat wing, Kadena AB hosts multiple airframes ranging from F-15 Eagles to HH-60G Pave Hawk search and rescue helicopters.

However, AWACS crews provide essential air battle management and comprehensive information on visibility and direction of practically all aircraft in the region. Without this ability, all Air Force airborne units would be blind to other aircraft in the battlespace.

Lt. Col. Trey Coleman, the 961st AACS director of operations, said that capability is something that sets the Air Force apart from other nations.

"I think that air battle management is a direct correlate to the rise of American air power since the Vietnam War," Coleman said. "It's one of those integral things that makes American air power unique and makes it the best in the world."

Since its establishment here more than a decade ago, the 961st AACS has provided unwavering and unmatched air battle management in the Pacific area of responsibility.

There are 32 Sentries currently in the Air Force inventory. Air Combat Command hosts 27 E-3s at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., while Pacific Air Forces features four of the aircraft between Kadena AB and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

However, Coleman, who's been on Kadena AB since September last year, said its expansive mission and strategic location make Kadena one of the most important bases for deterring conflict in the region.

"I believe Kadena AB is the best and most important place in the world to conduct air battle management," Coleman said. "In today's geo-strategic context in the Pacific coupled with the downsizing of our fleet, nowhere else is it more important to have effective and efficient ABM."

Though the 961st AACS has only claimed the iconic "ZZ" tail codes of the 18th Wing since 1991, the squadron hosts a lineage as the 61st Bombardment Squadron commissioned in 1940, which predates those of its fellow Sentry-laden sister units.

Despite altering its mission and equipment since it began in World War II to the advanced systems it boasts now, Coleman said the equipment isn't what gives American Airmen the deciding advantage.

Rather, he said, it's the legacy preceding the formation of the Air Force, exemplified by Medal of Honor recipients and predecessors in training and command.

"Our technology is fantastic, but it'll be out-aced in time," he said. "What we bring to the table as American Airmen is a corporate wealth of knowledge that spans all the way back to (retired Brig. Gen.) Billy Mitchell and the Air Corps Tactical School."

Dover reservist battles brain cancer

by Tech. Sgt. Charles Walker
436th AW Public Affairs


4/30/2013 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del.  -- Sometimes a headache is just a headache. Other times it can be the sign of something much worse.

Just ask Maj. Shawn Boyle, an Individual Mobilization Augmentee reservist with the 436th Airlift Wing Judge Advocate office.

Boyle, who lives outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., was experiencing what he thought were severe migraine headaches. Over time the headaches and the pain from them continued to grow worse. Boyle had been to the doctor several times and he was taking aspirin.

He went to the local doctor in October 2012, and they told him it was his sinuses. In early February of this year, Boyle was at the fitness center working out, when the pain from the headaches became unbearable. He was sent to a specialty doctor and that's when he got the proper diagnosis ... brain cancer.

Boyle was diagnosed with a slow-growing cancer in his brain. It is inoperable, and the outlook for he and his family is going to be a rough and bumpy one.

"The doctor said unless you knew what you were looking for, when you hear about headaches in the front of the head you assume it is sinus," Boyle said. "The cancer is an inoperable astrocytoma. They can't operate, but they can try to slow its growth with radiation."

Boyle began radiation treatment last week at the John Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. He will undergo aggressive radiation treatment for six and a half weeks and then he will be checked again to see what his and the cancer's reaction was to the radiation. Boyle said his doctor is telling him if the treatment goes well he can live as much as 10-to-15 years.

Boyle's wife Sarah said it's been a rough couple months for her and her family since getting the news in February.

"Obviously the diagnosis has been difficult," Sarah said. "Our sister-in-law had a brain tumor and died last year leaving behind her two daughters. So the diagnosis was not a happy thing, it felt like a blow. But the amount of care and concern we've received, it's amazing. I never expected such an outpouring, I'm truly grateful."

Sarah, who is a family therapist with Family Services of Western Pennsylvania, said the news has been especially hard on their daughter Cathleen, who is staying with Sarah's parents while Sarah and Shawn stay at the Fisher House near Walter Reed.

"She is very stoic, it has hit her very, very hard," Sarah said. "She tries very hard to protect her dad and keep a stiff upper lip, but she has already broken down a few times. We got the school involved once we got the diagnosis and they are keeping tabs on her. Even though she is staying with my parents, the split has been very difficult."

Shawn said that since his diagnosis, his other family, the Air Force, has stepped in to help him in ways he never would have imagined, namely his bosses Lt. Col. Scott Boehne, staff judge advocate with the 436th AW and Carmel Feliciani, also from the same office.

"My co-workers have been wonderful," Boyle said. "Ms. Feliciani has been on the phone every day seeing if I need anything. Lt. Col. Boehne has been taking care of things as well. They've both been really great. I can't say enough on how everyone has been treating me. It has been wonderful."

Boehne said that he and his office have tried to do everything they could to keep Shawn stress free as he and his family begin their battle with cancer.

"We tried to do everything we could on our end so he would not worry about his status with the Air Force," Boehne said. "We had to learn a bit, about who are the right points of contact, but we have been working those bureaucratic hurdles. We've tried to shield him from stress so he could focus on treatment and recovery."

Sarah said Thomas Krug deserves a lot of thanks for the care her husband has received so far. Krug, who is a recovery care coordinator with the Wounded Warrior Program, is basically making sure Shawn and Sarah are cared for and that their needs are met.

"He has meant everything," Sarah said of Krug. "In many ways, he has saved our lives. I wouldn't know where we would be without Tom, and we can't thank him enough. The Wounded Warrior Program is just wonderful. Everybody who works for them should be thanked."

Boyle, who began his 20-year career as an enlisted soldier in the Army, before switching to the Air Force and joining the JAG Corps, began his chemotherapy last Tuesday and will continue with radiation treatment for the next six weeks.

His love for his family and the Air Force he said means the world to him.

"Sometimes an event in your life changes so much" Boyle said. "One minute your life can turn upside down. A lot of people step up and offer you so much love and so much hope, how do you say thank you? You can't say thank you enough.

"My military family means so much to me. Me and my family, we're holding up well. I'm just going to enjoy them as much as I can for as long as I can."

AMARG held Boneyard 5k

by Airman 1st Class Christine Griffiths
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


4/30/2013 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, ARIZ.,  -- The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group hosted the Desert Boneyard 5K here, April 28.

AMARG, commonly known as the Boneyard, is a one-of-a-kind, specialized facility within the Air Force where aircraft retire.

Prior to the run, participants watched as Airmen from the D-M Honor Guard performed the opening ceremony and told the Air Force story, as well as the history of the Boneyard.

This was the first year AMARG held the 5k, knowing that the local community and active duty military from around Tucson would enjoy the chance to run among the aircraft at the Boneyard.

"In the initial planning stages we were actually preparing for 300 people," said 1st Lt. Michele Tempel, 355th Civil Engineer Squadron Civil Engineer Readiness Emergency Management flight commander. "And we really passed that up fairly quickly and ended up with 810 registered participants; we far exceeded our expectations!"

Capt. Michael Miller, Bravo Company 209th Military Intelligence commander at Fort Huachuca, was the first place winner in the first 5k event.

"This event was really well organized and well supported. I can tell the Air Force put a lot of effort into it," Miller said. "It was a lot of fun and it was great to see the whole community out here having a good time."

With the positive response from the base and local community, AMARG is looking to hold this event annually.

"Hopefully in the years to come it becomes and Air Force tradition," Tempel said. "We have a lot of interest, so I can definitely see that happening in the future."

Moody holds F-86L Sabre dedication ceremony

by By Senior Airman Eileen Meier
23d Wing Public Affairs


4/30/2013 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Members of Team Moody came together to attend the F-86L Sabre dedication ceremony in honor of fallen U.S. Air Force pilot Maj. Lyn McIntosh at the President George W. Bush Air Park at Moody Field April 27, 2013.

The ceremony began with a prayer from U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Donald Bridges, who spoke about McIntosh and his brave actions as a fighter pilot.

"May this memorial serve to remind all those who pass by those scriptured words," said Bridges. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for friends."

McIntosh was killed in a collision with two aircraft during Operation Eagle Claw in 1980. It was a mission ordered by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to end the Iran hostage situation.

Members of the McIntosh family were introduced at the ceremony, followed by the unveiling of McIntosh's name stenciled on the side of the F-86. His three sons Mark, Stuart and Scott McIntosh joined Col. Edward Ford, 23d Mission Support Group commander, on the stage to unveil the plaque dedicated to their father.

Col. Billy Thompson, 23d Wing commander, took the podium to say a few words.

"Two days ago we marked 33 years since (McIntosh) gave his life during Operation Eagle Claw, a rescue attempt of 52 American hostages held in Tehran, Iran," said Thompson. "His heroic actions and this aircraft will forever leave Major McIntosh and the Flying Tigers with Moody AFB .

"Major McIntosh embodied the motto by which our rescue community lives: These things we do, that others may live," said Thompson. "We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the McIntosh family and the city of Valdosta for allowing Major McIntosh's legacy to be a part of ours. It's truly an honor."

In 1961 the F-86 was loaned to the city of Valdosta from the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base , Ohio, to be displayed as a monument representing the close community ties with Moody.

Shortly after McIntosh was killed on April 25, 1980, it was rededicated in his honor because of his native ties with the town. Twenty-two years later, consent was received from assigned custodians of the F-86 and the McIntosh family to relocate the vintage aircraft to Moody AFB.

With a group effort of base and local agencies, the F-86 arrived at Moody April 25, 2012, the 32nd anniversary of McIntosh's death.

"I think this aircraft and memorial does nothing more than strengthen the bonds between the base and our city," said Thompson. "We truly appreciate how much of a piece of history this F-86 is.
"I say it all the time, but I truly believe we couldn't do what we do at Moody without the unfailing support of the local communities," he added.

Andersen wheel, tire shop improves capabilities, minimizes time, money spent

by Staff Sgt. Veronica McMahon
36th Wing Public Affairs


5/1/2013 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -  -- The 36th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Wheel and Tire shop recently installed new equipment to fully accommodate the B-52 Stratofortress and any other aircraft using the flightline on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, while saving roughly $32,000 annually.

This capability is due to the installation of universal adapters for the aircraft tire bead breakers. The universal adaptor allows the bead breaker to separate the rubber from the rim on various tire sizes.

"Previously, we only repaired tires for the RQ-4 Global Hawk, but now we've begun expanding our capabilities to assist with the B-52s," said Staff Sgt. Tyler Ambrose, 36th MXS Wheel and Tire Shop specialist. "Now that we have installed this adapter we are able to work on any aircraft in the Air Force inventory, saving us time and money."

Ambrose and Staff Sgt. Jan Stevens, 36th MXS wheel and tire shop specialist, run the two-man shop and are thankful to have the new ability to repair tires here.

"Until recently, brand-new tires were flown into Guam completely assembled," Ambrose said. "Now that we have the capability to work on them, the parts can be shipped in by boat and assembled here. All repairs can also be conducted right here at the shop.

"It's a major cost benefit considering that we are in the remote location of Guam," he continued. "The tires are so heavy it cuts down tremendously on shipping costs alone."

Since the equipment was installed so recently, the team has not yet repaired a B-52 tire, but they have repaired Global Hawk tires, along with tires from other aircraft during recent exercises.

"During Cope North, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, U.S. Navy and other U.S. Air Force units were able to use the shop to do minor repairs here instead of shipping in completely assembled tires from their home station units," said Stevens.

According to Stevens, tires for the JASDF Mitsubishi F-2s and F-15 Eagles, U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets and the Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons were all repaired using the new equipment, and so far, the tools have worked to the shop's expectations.

"Having the universal adapter makes the process a lot quicker, smoother and now we can accommodate anything we come across," said Stevens. "This new capability also allows us to provide more services during joint exercises and support our international allies."

While they are now capable to support any aircraft tire, Ambrose and Stevens said they expect most of their repairs to be on the Global Hawk and B-52 tires.

Along with repairs, the B-52 tires will soon be built on Andersen as well. The shop has already received 49 different parts that make up a B-52 tire and is equipped with roughly 75 percent of the parts to build the tires in-house. According to Ambrose, in the next few months the shop will have the ability to fully outfit an aircraft in a day if need be.

When the B-52 units deploy in for their six-month rotations, six maintainers will accompany the unit and assist with tire repairs to assist with the increased work load.

"The Global Hawks are always here, the B-52s are constantly deploying in and other aircraft are always using the flightline, so whatever tire problems come up we are ready," Ambrose said. "Any tire obstacle we come across on Andersen, we are ready and able to play our part to keep the mission going."

Face of Defense: Training Helps Mechanic Save Fellow Paratrooper

By Army Sgt. Mike MacLeod
1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division

FORT BRAGG, N.C., May 1, 2013 – Army Sgt. James Hayes has one piece of advice for soon-to-deploy mechanics: take your training seriously.


Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. James Hayes stands in front of a vehicle-recovery wrecker at Fort Bragg, N.C., on April 30, 2013. Hayes and his team used a wrecker to lift a damaged vehicle off a fellow paratrooper a year ago in Afghanistan, saving the paratrooper’s life. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike MacLeod
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Hayes, a mechanic who deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team to Afghanistan in 2012, said that the first time he had to rely on his training to right a flipped armored vehicle, everything worked exactly as he had trained.

At stake was the life of a fellow paratrooper, Army Spc. Justin Lansford, a turret gunner who was pinned under the top of a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle after it was flipped by an exploding improvised explosive device. Lansford was critically wounded and was bleeding heavily from femoral arteries.

“I remember thinking it was going to turn bad quick if I didn’t do it right,” said Hayes, a freckle-faced former German citizen and son of an American soldier.

When Hayes, Army Cpl. Joshua Dobson and two other mechanics arrived at the attack site, medics were treating Lansford, and the damaged vehicle was on fire, Hayes said.
After extinguishing the fire, the mechanics determined the correct lifting points and amount of winch force to apply based on the vehicle’s weight, and gently lifted the wreckage high enough to extricate the pinned paratrooper.

“I can’t even explain to you how rewarding that feeling was,” Hayes said.

Lansford was airlifted from the battlefield, eventually recovering from his injuries at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Although Lansford lost both of his legs above the knee, he was glad to be alive, he said.

During Hayes’ six-month deployment, he and his team recovered 15 to 20 vehicles. Most were for mechanical failures or driver inexperience, or a combination of the two, he said.

On one convoy, three vehicles, including Hayes’ wrecker, were struck by IEDs within seconds of each other. He and Dobson escaped injury, but soldiers in both of the other two vehicles were medically evacuated by helicopter.

The wrecker had been towing a damaged vehicle when it was hit, so mechanics used a larger truck to tow both vehicles in-line, Hayes said. The train of towed vehicles may have looked odd, he said, but it worked to take them off the battlefield.

“The training really works,” Hayes said.