By 1st Lt. Alexander Babcock
4th Combat Aviation Brigade public affairs
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan - Eight soldiers with the U.S. Army's 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, hold the honor of receiving the German Armed Forces Combat Action Medal, awarded May 20 at a special ceremony at Provincial Reconstruction Team Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan. German Col. Norbert Sabrautzki, commander of Provincial Reconstruction Team Kunduz, presented the awards to the aviators for their rescue of a wounded German soldier in October.
Known in the German army, or Bundeswehr, as the Einsatzmedaille der Bundeswehr Gefecht, the award recognizes soldiers engaged, wounded or attacked by the enemy, as noted by "Gefecht," literally "engaged."
Honored were Capt. Abilgail Horvath; Chief Warrant Officers-3 James Brown, Justin Kiker and Aaron Maguire; Chief Warrant Officer-2 Robert Tackett; Staff Sgt. Peter Woken; Spc. Nickolas Grant; and Spc. Shane Shafer. Maguire and Woken, who have returned to the United States, were not present for the ceremony.
Horvath, pilot of the medavac aircraft that landed in the firefight, said of the decision to take on the mission, "You don't really have time to think, you just want to launch. Whenever we have the opportunity to do that, it's going to take a lot to get in our way."
Horvath's HH-60L Black Hawk helicopter was supported defensively by a UH-60L with two door gunners. As the aircraft neared the site of the wounded German soldier, the crews saw plumes of smoke and impacting mortar rounds. The firefight, as Horvath recalled it, was a surprise.
"It wasn't until we saw rounds hitting the ground that we knew they were in contact," she said.
"I don't do this job for awards, obviously. I was very honored," said Brown, crew chief on the medevac helicopter.
He said part of that honor comes in getting to work with the different nations of Regional Command-North.
"This is one of the most rewarding jobs in the military," Brown said. "To be able to help regardless of nationality, to get soldiers back to their families - landing in a hot (landing zone), that's just part of the job."