Guard Helicopter Crew Awarded for Saving 6 Lives

Sometimes even first responders can get caught up in the same dangerous predicament as the people they’re trying to help, especially during flash floods.

Four members of the Louisiana Army National Guard were honored last month by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division for their aerial rescue of six people, including the LDWF’s SGT Rusty Perry and Winn Parish Firefighter Buddy King. The men’s boat capsized as they tried to evacuate people from a flooded area in Winnfield, La., on March 10, 2016.

The Guardsmen, CW5 Jack Mucha, CW2 Corey Sayer, SSG Chad McCann and SGT Aaron Adam, all members of the Bayou 69 Black Hawk Helicopter crew, were awarded the Citizens Exceptional Bravery Awards for their efforts.

When Perry and King could not be reached by other vessels or high water vehicles, the Black Hawk crew performed an aerial rescue in a less than ideal spot that required precision hover work, as told by the crew in the video below:

“There was probably only about 10 feet between the power lines and the edge of the trees,” said SSG McCann, whose job it was to lower SGT Adam down to the stranded men. Adding to the pressure was the fact that no one knew whether the power lines were still active, said Pilot CW5 Mucha.

“It was a nail biter for sure,” said CW5 Mucha, whose mind was also on the mission he and the rest of Bayou 69 were originally scheduled to be doing that day – a flyover of a memorial honoring the MOJO 69 crew – four fellow Louisiana Guardsmen and seven Marines – who had been killed in a helicopter crash on March 10 one year prior.

“We did not want to be accident No. 2,” he said.

It was also a close call for Perry and King, who needed immediate medical attention after being stuck in cold water for a few hours, according to COL John Plunkett, who is now Bayou 69’s commanding officer.

At the awards ceremony last month, “The one individual said that he was actually hypothermic, and close to not being able to hold on to the item he was holding on to,” said COL Plunkett. “[The Guardsmen] were pretty much their last hope for getting those guys out of there.”

After safely retrieving the two men, the crew then returned to the area to rescue the two people Perry and King were trying to help, plus two other stranded first responders.

CW5 Mucha said the only comparable mission he could think of was the hoist work and rescues he had done during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“The most rewarding mission you can do is doing Medevac, and saving lives in combat and here in the State,” said CW5 Mucha, who has been a pilot since 1980. Mucha said most of his Medevac missions have been along the coastline, “so it was nice to help some people in our local area.”

So if you’re looking for a job with a mission, the Army National Guard offers 130 career choices, and not just in aviation. Check out our job board for more information on careers in administration, military police, infantry, mechanics and maintenance, logistics support, and more. For a complete rundown of the benefits of joining the Guard, contact your local recruiter.

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State Spotlight: South Carolina

Guard Staff Sergeant Saves Lives as a Soldier and a Civilian

SSG Jessica Thibeau, with the South Carolina Army National Guard’s 59th Aviation Troop Command, observes from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during efforts to fight South Carolina wildfires in November 2016. Photo by Army SSG Roberto Di Giovine.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Soldiers join the military for many reasons, including family tradition, stories they’ve seen in the media, or to make their childhood dreams come true.

For South Carolina Army National Guard Staff Sgt. (SSG) Jessica Thibeau, exposure to the military came from all over – a family filled with combat veterans, a community full of Vietnam veterans, and a television show.

“No laughing, but when I was 4 years old I loved a show called ‘Emergency.’ It was based on the first paramedics in the U.S. out in Los Angeles County, California,” said SSG Thibeau.

“That was in 1974,” she added. “There were not any female firefighters back then. My mom, however, never told me that. She always told me I could be whatever I wanted. I actually got a ton of Tonka fire trucks and ambulances that year for Christmas because that is all I wanted. Becoming a combat medic was just a natural progression.”

After having served on active duty and 20 years as a civilian paramedic, in 2005, SSG Thibeau decided to join the Army National Guard, and offer her combined civilian-military experience in trauma response and emergency/critical care to the Guard, which has a dual mission of serving the Nation and responding to State emergencies like floods and fires.

Initially, SSG Thibeau became a combat medic (68W Healthcare Specialist) with the Maine Army National Guard, 133rd Engineer Battalion. Next, she joined a Medevac unit with Charlie Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, also in Maine. She later transferred to the South Carolina Army National Guard as a critical care flight paramedic with the 59th Aviation Troop Command.

Throughout her 18 years of military service, SSG Thibeau has saved numerous lives, including two while serving on the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team. 

SSG Thibeau also flew numerous fire containment missions during the Pinnacle Mountain wildfires in Northwestern South Carolina in November 2016, and she has saved countless lives as a paramedic. As a civilian and a Soldier, she exemplifies positivity in her community and serves with dedication and proficiency in the military.

“I do love walking in on someone’s absolute worst day and making it a little, if not a lot, better,” SSG Thibeau said. “This job gives you a positive outlet to get that adrenaline rush while having a positive impact on others.”

“Whether it is saving their home, their loved one having a heart attack, or bringing another Soldier home from combat to their family, there is no greater feeling in the world to me than knowing you made a difference.”

So if you’d like to make a difference in your community, consider joining the Army National Guard, which offers more than 150 careers. Check out our job board to search opportunities in fields like medicine, administration, or infantry. Your part-time service comes with many benefits like money for college or vocational school and low-cost health and life insurance. Contact your local recruiter to learn more.

From an original story by Army SSG Roberto Di Giovine, 59th Aviation Troop Command, which originally appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in April 2017.

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