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News > Moody Lieutenant named top AF CRO
Moody Lieutenant named top AF CRO

Posted 7/9/2007   Updated 7/9/2007 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Eric Schloeffel
23rd Wing Public Affairs

7/9/2007 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- A Moody lieutenant's duty performance while supporting rescue efforts during a deployment to Afghanistan have helped earn him the title of Air Force Combat Rescue Officer of the Year. 

1st Lt. Kirk Henry, 38th Rescue Squadron, feels the award is recognition of his team's efforts in the area of responsibility rather than merely individual praise, he said. 

"I received this award because of the actions of the men I worked with," said Lieutenant Henry, an Air Force Academy graduate. "The award means a lot personally because it represents their work; they deserve the credit." 

Lieutenant Henry's "Bravo Team" recorded 27 saves, 27 recoveries and 11 assists in the area of responsibility during their deployment. As a CRO, Lieutenant Henry's focus during the deployment was to go wherever he could best support the rescue mission, he said. 

"My mission is to support the five stages of personnel recovery, which includes reporting and locating the incident, supporting the incident, recovery and re-integration," said the Colorado native. "That can mean staying behind and working the support aspect, but also going forward with the team on missions if needed." 

Like PJ's, CRO's endure more than a year of grueling training that includes swimming, diving, parachuting, weapons training and basic emergency medical technician skills. Though the job is often physically and mentally demanding, Lieutenant Henry had aspirations to be involved in rescue since age 10. 

"I knew I wanted to do this after reading a book about an individual who was shot down in Vietnam and survived for 42 days with a fractured skull and femur, and mangled right arm," said Lieutenant Henry. "He was captured by the Vietnamese, but escaped before being captured again. `He received the Medal of Honor but never received a chance to come home to his family." 

Now as the Air Force's top CRO, Lieutenant Henry has seen his dreams come to fruition and has been directly involved in several rescue scenarios. 

"During my deployment, our team brought back 12 people who were trapped in a minefield," he said. "To see the faces of those people as they returned makes all the hard work worth it. Everybody who directly fights in our wars should know there are highly trained individuals who dedicate their lives to make sure they come to their families." 

While the high-operations tempo climate continues, Lieutenant Henry is motivated to return to the deployment zone with the 38th RQS once again to help bring home more troops, he said. 

"As long as my country needs me and we continue to fight in the war on terror, I want to be involved," said the lieutenant. "Working at the 38th RQS has been a great experience, and everyone here is extremely motivated and has a lot of tenacity and personnel courage." 

Members of Lieutenant Henry's team during his Afghanistan deployment aren't surprised by the award and feel their fellow Airman was able to smoothly transition from being a leader to a good listener, said Tech. Sgt. Todd Popovic, NCO-in charge of the 'Bravo Flight' team. 

"In the past six years, the Air Force has developed a warrior ethos every Airman should commit to," said Sergeant Popovic. "Lieutenant Henry brings that exact mentality to the fight, and his leadership potential was something I noticed right away during our 130-day deployment to Afghanistan. As a deployed team, we needed a leader who would step up to the challenge to deliver this warrior ethos attitude. 

"The attributes that make him stand out from the rest is a compassion for fellow comrades and an ability to listen to experience in areas he lacks," he added. "He was the right man for the right mission at the right time."

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