Knoxville, TN – Several Tennessee Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion that is now part of Joint Base McGhee-Tyson in Knoxville, TN, were awarded the Sikorsky Rescue Award July 10th, for participating in three different lifesaving missions in Eastern Tennessee earlier this year.
“To be eligible to receive the Sikorsky Rescue Award, an individual must have directly performed a lifesaving rescue in any Sikorsky helicopter,” said Shay Collins, a customer award program manager with Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.
The awards were presented by Tom Nicolette, a representative of Sikorsky Aircraft, and by Major General Max Haston, Adjutant General for the Tennessee National Guard.
The award was established to salute the men and women who endanger their own lives to save others wounded in combat, trapped by hurricanes, mud slides, earthquakes, avalanches or other natural disasters, and imperiled by accidents such as shipwrecks, according to the company website.
It can be more difficult to treat a patient in the air than on the ground.
“The space in which we work is confined and we only have what we bring with us to treat the patient,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Banta, a flight paramedic for more than 20 years with the Tennessee National Guard. “We have to be vigilant when checking off the aircraft and our medical equipment prior to assuming the mission.”
However, difficulties are not a deterrent.
“Having the ability to help people in their time of need is the greatest and most rewarding job I have ever had,” Banta added. He currently works full time for the Guard as a standardization instructor training crew chiefs and other flight paramedics. Banta keeps his medical skills sharp working part time as a paramedic in the civilian sector as well.
The Soldiers have participated in three separate rescue missions just this year. On March 30th, the National Guard crew rescued a diabetic man from the Mount Cammerer Tower area. The MEDEVAC unit had only been at Joint Base McGhee-Tyson for a few months at the time of the incident.
About a week later, on May 7th, the unit was activated again, rescuing another injured hiker, this time along the Boulevard Trail, who was also flown to UT Medical Center for further treatment.
Overall, eight Tennessee National Guard Soldiers have received the Sikorsky Rescue Award this year: Maryville, TN, residents Chief Warrant Office 4 Brad Hutsell and Staff Sgt. Giovanni Dezuani; Alcoa, TN, resident Sgt. John Sharbel; and Knoxville, TN, residents Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matt Jaggers, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Andrew Cordray, Jr., Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Banta, Sgt. 1st Class Eddie Smith, and Staff Sgt. Doug Edmisten; as well as Sgt. Jason Bowen who has recently transferred to the Wyoming Army National Guard.
Sikorsky initiated the Winged-S Rescue Award Program in 1950 to honor all those who perform rescues flying a Sikorsky helicopter. Sikorsky helicopters have helped save an estimated 2 million lives since the first civilian helicopter rescue occurred in 1945.