U.S. Army Europe aviators honored once more for Afghanistan rescue

Sept. 17, 2012

By Staff Sgt. Tabitha Lee, U.S. Air Force

Keeping heroes active
German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere greets Sgt. Michael Allen, a UH-72A Lakota production control NCO and crew chief with the Falcon team of U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Readiness in Hohenfels, Germany, at the Berlin Air Show, Sept. 13. The show, an international event hosted by Germany, also featured American aviation, including UH-60 Black Hawk and UH-72A Lakota helicopters from USAREUR units and Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon, C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules aircraft. More than 50 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel from bases in Europe and the United States supported the U.S. aircraft and equipment on display. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tabitha Lee, U.S. Air Force)

BERLIN – Two U.S. Army Europe aviation crew members were honored on the opening day of the Berlin Air Show for their part in heroic efforts that saved 12 German soldiers in Afghanistan in 2010.

The Americans received awards for valor from the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Sept. 11.

The awards were presented by Robert Kokorda, Sikorsky's vice president for sales and marketing. U.S. Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy, Gen. Philip Breedlove, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa commander, and Sergei Sikorsky, son of aerospace pioneer and Sikorsky founder Igor Sikorsky, were present for the event.

Awardees Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Lacrosse, who was a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot at the time of the rescue and is now an instructor pilot with the Falcon team at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, and Sgt. Antonio Gattis, a flight medic with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment in Landstuhl, Germany, were part of the team of 14 USAREUR Soldiers who took part in the rescue. Just weeks after the rescue the Soldiers were awarded the Bundeswehr's highest honor for a single act of valor, the Ehrenkreuz in gold.

“To have the company give me an award, as a Black Hawk pilot, I got teary eyed,” Lacrosse said. “I was just a soldier doing my job.”

“It was a huge honor to receive the award,” said Gattis. “It was overwhelming.”

Three of the German soldiers that were rescued during that 2010 mission and German army Feldwebel (the equivalent of a U.S. Army staff sergeant) Patrick Bonneik, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller who was involved in the operation, attended the Sikorsky award presentation here.

Bonneik expressed his admiration for the American soldiers who rescued his comrades and their recognition by the aircraft industry.

“It’s an honor to see their heart, dedication and perfect service,” Bonneik said.

It has been more than two years since the mission and the bonds between the soldiers are still strong.

“Every time I see them again, it’s like we are old friends,” Gattis said.

Read related stories from 2010 about the Americans' act and awards:
German Minister of Defense praises U.S. Army Europe helicopter crew members during Afghanistan visit
Fourteen U.S. Army Europe aviators to receive Bundeswehr medal for valor
German, U.S. officials salute families of 14 U.S. Army Europe aviators who earned Bundeswehr medal for valor

Watch reports on the 2010 rescue on the USAREUR YouTube channel:
Part 1   Part 2

About us: U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned to advance American strategic interests across Eurasia and has unparalleled capability to prevent conflict, shape the environment and, if necessary, win decisively. The relationships we build during more than 1000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships, and enhance global security.