A member of the United States Air Force who was credited with saving the lives of 44 Nepal earthquake victims has been named the “2016 Airman of the Year”. Staff Sergeant Dylan Crawford was one of five US airmen who volunteered to participate in the Operation Sahayogi Haatharu, a joint operation of various US government agencies launched after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on 25 April 2015.
Staff Sergeant Crawford, who called the US military’s operation in Nepal “the pararescue mission of the century”, has been named the 2016 Airman of the Year for his selfless act during the rescue and recovery mission.
Needless to say, many of those he put on his Ospreys helicopter and flew to Kathmandu would probably not have made it if he had not reached their far-flung villages at the right time.
According to Military Times, an independent media outlet that focuses on all branches of the US military, when the disaster struck Mr Crawford was in the middle of a training programme in the Philippines. Nevertheless, he offered to fly to Nepal to mount the emergency rescue mission.
In the following three weeks, he would fly to the most affected areas of the country where desperate earthquake survivors would circle around his helicopter. He would assess them and then decide which ones needed the most urgent, critical medical attention in Kathmandu’s emergency medical facilities.
“To be able to go out and immediately use all the medical knowledge that I learned and have such a wide variety of patients that I was able to help was pretty incredible,” Crawford was quoted by Military Times in a recent report. “To be that one guy on the ground, to go out and do mass casualties in the villages and help as many people as I could and get them to the best medical care that I possibly could, and also give them the treatment that they needed on the ground and in the helicopter, it was pretty incredible for me,” he added.
He told Military Times that he was the only pararescue (airmen who are trained to rescue downed aircrews from war zones or other difficult terrains and hence, his skills much suited to the horrible scenes left behind by the Nepal earthquake) specialist in his helicopter and hence, every time they landed in some badly affected Nepalese village, it fell on his shoulders to reach out and find victims. In the process, he treated all kinds of wounds – from broken legs “to soft tissue wounds, to airway complications, and gave IVs to people who had lost blood. He treated babies with facial trauma, and re-inserted a Foley catheter that had gotten ripped out of one man.”
Then there was the second earthquake on May 12 and the ensuing helicopter crash killing six US Marines and their Nepalese comrades. It was yet another test for Mr Crawford! He and his team mates negotiated the difficult mountain flanks where the UH-1Y Huey helicopter had crashed. When they did find it, it took them days to completely recover the remains.
When they ran out of food at some stage, the Staff Sergeant remembers now, the rangers from Nepal Army working alongside the US military personnel to find the wreckage of the crashed helicopter, bought a goat from “a 12 year old boy” and made “goat curry” out of it. But apparently there were snow leopards lurking around. So they kept the fire going around their camp, Military Times writes.
Mr Crawford and other winners of the 2016 Military Times Service Members of the Year award will be honoured on July 14 at a Capitol Hill gala to be attended by members of US Congress and other VIPs. The award is given annually.