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Posted: 8/7/2001 8:12:28 PM EDT
[img]http://www.af.mil/photos/images/1007a-01.jpg[/img] Enlisted Air Force Cross recipient retires 07/24/01 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFPN) -- Surrounded by Air Force Special Operations Command family and friends, Master Sgt. Tim Wilkinson, the only enlisted Air Force Cross recipient on active duty, retired during a ceremony here July 20. Wilkinson, a pararescueman, earned the Air Force Cross for his heroic efforts while supporting Task Force Ranger during an 18-hour firefight in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. He became the first enlisted person to earn the Air Force Cross since 1975, bringing the total of enlisted honorees to 21. That day in 1993 began with a mission to capture several key rebel clan leaders. The plan was a "simple" one -- go in, get the men and get out. But, fate would play a trump card. As the U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters dropped in Army Rangers to the target area, Somali militiamen were waiting. A rocket-propelled grenade downed one of the Blackhawks, sending it crashing to the streets below. "We were in the heart of bad guy territory," Wilkinson said. "We thought the whole mission would be simple -- go in, do the job and get out within 30 minutes. Instead we stumbled into a hornet's nest." On the ground, Wilkinson and a fellow pararescueman set about treating and recovering the downed helicopter crew. The embattled members of Task Force Ranger defending the crash site were holed up in a block of buildings that would later be dubbed "the Alamo." "There were some tense moments where we weren't sure we'd make it out. But no one would say it out loud," he said. Small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades crisscrossed the streets. As Rangers kept the Somali militia at bay, Wilkinson would race through the fury to retrieve wounded and dead American soldiers. Even when shrapnel tore a chunk of skin off his face, Wilkinson did not falter. As gunfire turned the city's streets into a shooting gallery, Wilkinson would continue to risk his life to retrieve fallen comrades. When supplies and ammunition dwindled, he would zip outdoors to retrieve airdropped supplies. Reinforcements finally cut through the resistance to evacuate the task force. Among the snapshot images Wilkinson remembers is when he finally returned to the base camp. "Walking back into the hangar where we were staying, it hit me how much impact the situation had on our team," he said. "We lost 18 guys that day and 80 more were wounded. You looked around the hangar and saw all the empty bunks, and realized the toll this took on Task Force Ranger. Wilkinson downplays his actions as part of the job. Being a hero is not a tagline he is comfortable with. "I didn't do anything spectacular. People were counting on me to do what I'm paid to do," he said. "I was just holding up my end of the deal on a bad day; everyone there was doing what was expected of them. It's not to downplay the graveness of the situation, I just happened to be the most capable at the time to do what needed to be done... This was a team effort. It is always a team effort." Along with earning the Air Force Cross, the PJ also earned the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in the Somalia battle.
Link Posted: 8/8/2001 12:16:08 AM EDT
People were counting on me to do what I'm paid to do
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A true professional. These are the guys you look up to.
Link Posted: 8/8/2001 4:20:06 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/8/2001 4:22:41 AM EDT by CPL_Punishment]
Excerpt from Blackhawkdown.com: -------------- Sgt. TIM WILKINSON was inside the wrecked Blackhawk, tending to the wounded, when he got a radio call. The men holed up in the building across the street desperately needed another medic. Rodriguez was in terrible shape. Wilkinson, who had roped down to the crash as part of a 15-man combat search-and-rescue team, gathered up his medical kit. Then he turned to his wounded fellow medic, Master Sgt. Scott Fales, and deadpanned an absurdly cinematic request. ``Cover me,'' he said. Wilkinson was the team comic. Head down, legs pumping, he ran and ran, plowing across the wide road, bullets snapping all around him. He burst into the courtyard and saw two of the big Delta sergeants wrestling with Rodriguez, trying to get the terrified private under control. Wilkinson cut open Rodriguez's uniform and saw that a round had ripped through his buttock and bored straight into his pelvis, blowing off one testicle as it exited his upper thigh. Into the gaping wound Wilkinson stuffed wads of Curlex, loosely rolled gauze that expands as it soaks up blood. He slipped pneumatic pants over Rodriguez's legs and pumped them with air to apply more pressure to the wound. The bleeding stopped. He started an IV, then realized he was almost out of fluids. Fales had extra fluids at the crash site, but that meant another foray through the gunfire. Crouching and running at the same time, Wilkinson took off across the road again. He made it safely, and loaded up bags of fluids. With the bags cradled in his arms, he made yet another panicked dash across the road, the rounds screaming over his head. He arrived in the courtyard unscathed. Wilkinson moved Rodriguez and the other wounded into a rear room. Then he turned to Capt. Scott Miller, the Delta ground commander. ``Look, I've got a critical here,'' he said. ``He needs to get out right now. The others can wait, but he needs to come out.'' Miller didn't respond. He just gave the medic a look that said, We're in a bad spot here, what can I say? [url]http://www.philly.com/packages/somalia/dec08/default08.asp[/url]
Link Posted: 8/8/2001 4:34:38 AM EDT
somali home video of the battle (also from blackhawkdown.com): [url]http://krvideo1.infi.net/realvideo/philly/blackhawk/STREETSC.ram[/url]
Link Posted: 8/8/2001 3:26:07 PM EDT
I simply can't imagine a better role model than someone like MSgt Wilkinson, who saw what needed to be done and did it without thought for his own safety. Pro athletes and the other modern-day "heroes" would want to shrink under the table in the company of men like this. (I wish I could remember who said that.)
Link Posted: 8/8/2001 3:29:25 PM EDT
Especially liked the humor lines by Wilkinson in one of the fiercest firefights in decades, like the "cover me" mentioned above or the "As your designated heath care assistant i should warn you that drugs and firearms don´t mix" when applying medicine to Ranger Goodale and Goodale grabbed his M16A2 and took positions while wounded in the rear side.
Link Posted: 8/8/2001 6:15:13 PM EDT
And guys like Alex Rodriguez get $250 million dollars and couldn't last half a day doing what this guy does for a living. The world just aint fair.
Link Posted: 8/8/2001 6:27:29 PM EDT
Link Posted: 8/8/2001 9:34:36 PM EDT
I'm glad you guys had upstanding comments. I know most of the Air Force news get low marks around here. Any way here is a BBS link so you can find out more about the PJ/CCT types. Lots of good info to be had! -David [url]http://www.specialtactics.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi[/url]
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 7:32:11 AM EDT
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 1:45:38 PM EDT
Originally Posted By kpel308: Whoa there, AMMOTECH! With all due respect, I don't think you've EVER hear anyone who's been in the military badmouth a PJ, medic, or Corpsman on this board! The rest of the USAF or USN or Army, sure, but NEVER these guys (Marines, especially, won't disparage another service's medics or rescue personnel, because we don't have our own, except for the TRAP teams). You can bet that most of us make sure they don't pay for their liquor when we happen to run into them, too[;D] I about ran out of money last time I ran into a Navy Corpsman! (And glad to do it.) Semper Fi! Ken Little
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I can't recall ever seeing anything besides the usual interservice rivalries and ball-busting. I hope nobody thinks we believe all the stuff we say about out sister services!
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 11:47:09 PM EDT
Kpel308 & NH2112, In the past as I've lurked this board and others it seems that the USAF takes a bit of a hit from the other services. I know that it is just rivalries and not true disrespect. The folks here that have done joint ops with other services and have few years under their belt undertand. It is the young studs that jump in with the "Were the Sh!T" stuff that I'm glad did not post any negitive comments. I also cross posted this link on the CCT/PJ site in hopes of getting some of that crowd over here. There are a lot of "Armchair Commandos" here that would love to get some input from the BTDT group to help our shooting and weapons tactics. -David
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