Aviation instructor receives Air Medal with Valor
Soldiers and Family members gathered to honor a Fort Rucker UH-60M standardization instructor at the Silver Wings Golf Course clubhouse as he received the Air Medal with Valor Dec. 20
Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey M. Day, of the Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization, was presented with the medal by Col. Jessie O. Farrington, U.S. Army Aviation Center for Excellence deputy commander, for exceptionally meritorious achievement in valor that was displayed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom May 25, according to Capt. Jonathan Britton, operations officer of the Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization.
"Day displayed complete disregard for his own safety while initiating multiple engagements against an enemy with superior fields of fire over the friendly forces," said Britton. "His actions were decisive in saving the lives of the Soldiers on the ground."
Col. David Fee, director of the Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization, told the Soldiers and Family members the story of how Day came to receive the medal.
"We were trying to decide whether he is crazy or stupid," said Fee, "but no matter what, most of the great awards were given somewhere in between."
According to the colonel's account, there was a unit under heavy fire that had run out of bullets and water, and needed an emergency resupply. These supplies are stuffed into bags, which are then called speedballs, to be delivered by aircraft to the unit in need.
"They needed someone to help push [the supplies] out of the aircraft and, naturally, Day says, 'I'll do it'," continued Fee.
It was Day's job to get the speedballs off the aircraft and to the unit. When the aircraft gets close enough to where the unit is to be resupplied, Day is "mission focused," according to the colonel.
"Day leaps out of the aircraft and starts pulling off the supplies," he said. "In the mean time, [Day's] communication with the aircraft becomes unhooked, and he can no longer communicate with the aircraft.
"He stayed out there, under heavy fire, just doing his job and unloading the speedballs," said the colonel. "Three rocket propelled grenades came at the aircraft, but he continued unloading the emergency supplies."
Meanwhile, the Soldiers flying the aircraft and the ones on the ground are trying to communicate to Day, yelling for him to "get out of there," added Fee.
In the midst of the heavy fire, and with disregard for his own safety, Day runs back and gets the rest of the speedballs for the unit in need. It wasn't until Day returned to the aircraft that he realized his communication with the aircraft had become unhooked, said the director.
"The aircraft had six bullet holes in it, and both the ground crew and the aircrew felt that the enemies' intentions were to shoot Day," he said. "The end result is that he saved all the ground guys' lives by getting their supplies to them under a ton of fire."
"I was just doing a job," said Day when reflecting on the story. "Everyone asks me 'Why did you get out of the helicopter?' and I say because they needed it.
"What the colonel didn't say is that the whole time the team was laughing at me. I had nothing better to do that day I guess," he joked. "But it was fun and interesting, and I have a trophy of it at home. It's a good reminder."
Article by Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff Writer