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10th Mountain aviator receives prestigious award for courage, leadership

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The senior instructor pilot was off-shift and asleep when he was designated to be the pilot in command for a quick reaction force mission to extract personnel involved in the recovery of the crew from a downed OH-58D Kiowa helicopter April 23, 2011, in eastern Afghanistan.

Soon after he was awakened, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Richard E. Arnold, standardization instructor pilot for Task Force Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI), received a hasty mission briefing, got to his UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter and launched to provide emergency supplies. En route, he was re-tasked to provide emergency personnel extraction.

"As we flew in, I could see the team off to the right of the aircraft," Arnold said. "Almost immediately we started taking fire, and Staff Sgt. (Jeffrey A.) Griebling, my right-side crew chief / gunner, started returning fire. An AH-64D Apache was overhead firing rockets and 30 mm rounds into the qalat where the insurgents were hiding."

When an explosion was heard to the rear of his aircraft, Arnold decided to take off, knowing that if his aircraft was shot down as well, it would only make the mission more dangerous.

"I made a quick circle and went back in to get the pinned-down team," he said. "We landed closer to them as they were completely exhausted. I noticed they were dragging one of their comrades, a hero that had been killed."

When Arnold and his team arrived at Bagram Airfield, Griebling asked if anyone had an American flag to cover the fallen Soldier.

"I then remembered that I had a flag underneath my body armor that had been with me during the previous Iraq deployment," Arnold said. "I had originally flown the flag for myself, but (I) realized that the flag had a different destiny. I gave the flag to Staff Sgt. Griebling, and he covered the hero with it."

For his extraordinary display of courage and leadership during not only this mission, but throughout his 2011 deployment, Arnold received the Order of Daedalians U.S. Army Exceptional Pilot Award -- 2011 during a ceremony Oct. 16 at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.

In addition to leading complex aerial missions, as the unit's standardization instructor pilot, Arnold managed the progression and development of 94 aviators and 68 non-rated crew members in four flight companies that flew more than 20,000 combat hours during the 2010-2011 deployment to eastern Afghanistan.

"He did all these things, and (he) did it with absolute excellence," said Col. David J. Francis, 10th CAB commander.

Arnold thanked his colleagues, friends and Family. He reminded them that they all came together as a team, and without them, his success would not likely be possible.

"I may have received this award, but there are so many others who deserve it just as much as I do," Arnold said. "I dedicate it to them, and I'm accepting it on their behalf. This is the biggest honor of my life."

On hand to present the award was U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Nicholas B. Kehoe, a former pilot during the Vietnam War who earned the Air Medal with 27 oak-leaf clusters during his career.

"It's an honor for me to come to Fort Drum to present this prestigious award to CW5 Arnold in front of his peers," Kehoe said. "He is an exceptional pilot and an exceptional leader. The Army has reinforced that."

The Order of Daedalians was created in 1934 to honor the first American pilots to fly in combat -- those of WWI. Its Exceptional Pilot Award, first awarded in 1999, is presented annually to a pilot selected by each military branch.

Francis emphasized as great as it is for an aviator from the unit to be recognized with such a prestigious award, Arnold's contributions extend much further.

"CW5 Arnold's impact on Army aviation goes far beyond this award," Francis said. "He has trained generations of Army aviators for combat operations. The impact of his training will be felt in the Army for years to come."

Article by Staff Sgt. Todd L. Pouliot, Army.mil