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New York Air Guardsmen Recognized for Dramatic Rescue > Air National Guard > Article Display

New York Air Guardsmen Recognized for Dramatic Rescue > Air National Guard > Article Display

WESTHAMPTON BEACH, NY – On April 24, 2017, seven Airmen from the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing jumped into the night sky over the Atlantic, 1,700 miles from Long Island.

Their mission was to provide emergency care to two sailors from the Slovenian bulk carrier Tamar who had been badly burned in an explosion.

On June 4, 2022, in a ceremony at FS Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, the two combat rescue officers and five pararescuemen of the 103rd Wing Rescue Squadron were awarded the Commendation Medal of the Air Force for their heroism for their actions.

The medal recognizes airmen who distinguish themselves through heroism, meritorious achievement and service.

Combat Rescue Officers Lt. Col. Edward Boughal and Major Marty Viera were honored with Pararescuemen Master Sgt. Jordan St. Clair; Senior Staff Sgt. Erik Blom; Staff Sgt. Jedediah Smith; and Staff Sgt. Michael Hartmann.

Staff Sgt. Bryan Dalere was also honored but was not present as he is now assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard.

Colonel Jeffrey Cannet, commander of the 106th Operations Group, which piloted the HC-130 search and rescue aircraft on the mission, congratulated those who jumped into the ocean that night.

“The complexity of this mission simply cannot be overstated,” Cannet said. “The fact that these guys had to do it, all out there, alone and fearless, to do it, was just a testament to their skill and ability.”

The facts of the mission show how incredibly demanding it was, Cannet said.

“I remember getting a call that a 625ft vessel traveling from Baltimore to Gibraltar had an explosion 1,700 miles off the east coast of New York,” Cannet said. “Four sailors were seriously injured and required immediate medical attention.”

Col. Andrew Weinberger, then commander of the 106th Operations Group, maintained the wing was capable and ready to execute the mission, Cannet said.

The 106th could not be officially assigned to rescue Tamar because it was a civilian search and rescue mission, he said. However, all airmen involved volunteered to take part in the flight.

Before they could take off, the team had to collect medical and surgical equipment from local hospitals.

Then, aircraft maintenance issues threatened to end the mission shortly after takeoff, but flight engineers mitigated the issue, Cannet said.

Jumping into the Atlantic at night required dropping gear packages on the target, as well as two Zodiac inflatable boats.

Once in the water, the pararescue team had to board the Zodiacs, retrieve the floating supplies, head to the ship and board the Tamar on a rope ladder as 15ft waves rocked the boat. up and down,” Cannet said.

Every aspect of the mission presented challenges, said St. Clair, the team leader.

In addition to distance and jumping, once aboard, the 106th Airmen had to perform emergency surgery, provide medical care for three days as the ship approached the Azores, and then ensure the victims were being airlifted on a Portuguese helicopter, St. Clair said.

“We were able to make a difference in the lives of two men,” St. Clair said. “Both of these men are alive and enjoying life today because of our ability to provide a capability that very few organizations can provide.”

Boughal said the unusual mission was a perfect example of the wisdom his para rescue instructor passed on to him: “Someday when someone is having their worst day, you better have their best day.”

Cannet, Boughal and St. Clair credited Lt. Col. Stephen Rush, 106th Medical Group Commander and 103rd Rescue Squadron Wing Flight Surgeon, for having had such a huge impact on the medical capabilities of the whole of the pararescue career field, preparing the team to be elite medical professionals.

Tamar’s rescue mission, Boughal told the audience, is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of the men and women of the 106th Rescue Wing and their commitment to the pararescue creed “…that others may live”.

“Today we pay tribute to these incredible men for putting everything on the line to save lives,” Boughal said.