Selfless actions earn PJ Bronze Star with Valor

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
A pararescueman from the 38th Rescue Squadron was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor March 4 for his selfless actions during a 2009 deployment to Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Rios was presented the award by Lt. Col. Steven Simone, 38th RQS commander, during a ceremony at the Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham Airman Leadership School.

During the sergeant's deployment, he helped provide cover from an HH-60G Pave Hawk codenamed PEDRO 16 as another aircraft, PEDRO 15, responded to the attack on a convoy that was hit by an improvised explosive device.

"The reason Sergeant Rios received this medal was because he responded so courageously in a situation that called for his expertise," said Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Wells, 38th RQS chief enlisted manager. "When under fire, he only saw the tasks that needed to be accomplished and did exactly what he needed to do to complete them and save lives."

Then-Senior Airman Rios was on the left side of the aircraft providing fire support with his weapon as PEDRO 15 began its decent towards the convoy.

"It's typical to hear, but all the training I had and all of my experiences up to that point really trained me for this situation," said Sergeant Rios. "Everything seemed to go slow like I had time to think about things. Then, I just reacted and did my job."

As PEDRO 15 was rescuing the downed members during the evacuation, they came under fire and had to make an emergency landing a few miles from the convoy.

PEDRO 16 responded to the downed aircraft and Sergeant Rios sprinted 160 feet to help some of the crew members and wounded passengers to be transported back to base.

Sergeant Rios volunteered to stay back with the downed plane and help keep the area safe while the other helicopter made numerous trips to transport all the members to safety.

While all this was happening, he wasn't thinking of the medals he would receive or the praise he would get. His only thoughts were about getting his fellow service members to safety.

This award presentation comes on the nine-year anniversary of death of Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, who was also stationed at the 38th RQS.

This coincidence wasn't lost on the rescue community or the ALS students. Sergeant Rios and his fellow ALS class members strive to be the type of Airman that Senior Airman Cunningham was. Airman Cunningham was mortally wounded after exposing himself to enemy fire as he continued to direct the movement of critically wounded patients.