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Six members of 101st Airborne awarded Soldier’s Medal for daring rescue after helicopter crash

The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is one of the most distinguished units in the United States military. Established during World War II, the division was initially made up of paratroopers who jumped into Normandy in the hours preceding the Allies’ amphibious invasion on “D-Day” in June 1944. During the Vietnam war, the division became “air mobile,” meaning its Soldiers began to deploy by helicopter rather than parachuting onto the battlefield.

But movement by helicopter carries its own substantial degree of risk. Recently, one of the division’s UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters crashed during a training exercise, trapping several Soldiers inside. Without hesitation, their fellow Air Assault Soldiers charged into the burning wreckage to save them. Army.mil reports:

A post-crash fire soon engulfed the aircraft wreckage in heavy smoke and flames. The responding Soldiers used water, fire extinguishers and soil to control the fire, allowing them to remove and treat three of the injured crewmembers. They then performed multiple immediate and inventive actions to remove the fourth trapped crew chief, ultimately freeing him from the still-burning wreckage. All of their actions were taken with full understanding of the significant risk to their own safety, and contributed directly to saving the lives of their fellow Soldiers that day. Read more at source…

The six Soldiers involved (Staff Sgt. Beau Corder, Staff Sgt. Richard Weaver, Staff Sgt. Engel Becker, Sgt. Damon Seals, Spc. Christopher White and Pfc. Ryan Brisson) were awarded the Soldier’s Medal for their actions. This is the Army’s highest decoration for peacetime acts of valor.

For those who enjoyed the book or series “Band of Brothers,” you will recall that Easy Company (the unit of most of the key figures in the story) was part of the 101st Airborne Division.

We previously ran a feature on one of that unit’s most famous members, Ron Speirs, who was recognized as one of the best combat leaders in the unit, but whose record was the subject of some controversy due to his shooting of an American GI (in self defense) and his rumored battlefield execution of German prisoners of war. In that article, we analyzed an eyewitness account of Speirs’ actions on those occasions.

For more information on the specialized Air Assault training completed by members of the 101st, visit goarmy.com.

thumbnail courtesy of army.mil

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