A clear head under fire earns sergeant medal
By Airman 1st Class Katie Justen, Capital Flyer Editor
/ Published June 05, 2009
ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- The evening sun had just finished its daily round, nestling behind the horizon of Afghanistan's desolate landscape. A flight of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters took off into the night sky from Kandahar Air Base, bearing alert crews en route to a rearming and refueling point that supported combat operations in the area. Flying at low altitudes over Al-Qaeda and Taliban held territory, their mission proved a matter of life and death: recover and evacuate three wounded Soldiers.
The helicopters approached for landing at the terminal area, where they suddenly came under enemy fire from AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
The calm actions and quick thinking from one of the aerial gunners helped see the Soldiers and crewmembers through the heavy fire.
The aerial gunner cleared his pilot into the high altitude landing zone with less than two meters of rotor clearance, and then gave exact coordinates to the aircraft commander to authorize air support from an AC-130 gunship. After the area was secured, the crew was able to return for the Soldiers and safely exit the area.
The hero was Andrews own Senior Master Sgt. Robert Sullivan, 89th Operation Support Squadron superintendent, and he was recently awarded the Combat Action Medal at an 89th Airlift Wing commander's call for his decisive actions and bravery.
"Sergeant Sullivan would be the first to tell you that he was 'just doing his job,'" said Col. Steven Harrison, 89 AW commander. "He is a member of an elite fraternity of Airmen who, through training, commitment, and adherence to the Air Force's core values, make an extraordinary difference by doing their job well."
Sergeant Sullivan agrees that training for the combat search and rescue team he was part of had much to do with his calm execution under fire. "We practiced low level night operations constantly, and I had been flying since 1998, so I had four years of practice. When my crew and I were given the order to execute, we were ready to go."
He also feels that Air Force core values play an integral role in the effectiveness of his response in a combat situation. "'Service Before Self' and 'Excellence in all we do' goes hand in hand with the CSAR motto, 'These things we do that others may live.'"
"Sergeant Sullivan performed meritoriously under direct enemy attack and thereby saved three Soldier's lives," said Colonel Harrison. "He made a difference when given the opportunity, and we at the 89 AW are all proud of his example."