A friendly rivalry exists between the five branches of the U.S. military. Members and veterans of each respective branch are quick to poke fun at one another, but it’s good-hearted, and truth be known, they share nothing but full respect for one another.
When push comes to shove, often during times of fierce battle, all of the branches work as one. Their important roles intertwine. The Navy bombards a shoreline, clearing the way for the Army and/or Marines.
Coast Guard PT boats patrolled the inland waterways of Vietnam, taking out Vietcong before they got to our ground troops. When the going on the ground gets rough, the Air Force pops in and rips the enemy a new one. You get it.
It’s a brother/sisterhood for the 7.3% of America’s population who have served, and for the 1% who currently serve. Within each branch lies a special unit of highly-trained nail chewing combative individuals whose purpose is to jump feet first into raging battleground infernos, and stroll back out carrying the heads of the enemy.
For the Air Force, this specialized unit is known as Pararescue, and they do exactly as the name implies. They dodge bullets as they shimmy down ropes from helicopters to rescue injured ground troops during the heat of battle. They dangle in midair like a tin duck at a shooting arcade. But they do much more.
Here is a more accurate description taken from the official U.S. Air Force website: “When an injured Airman needs saving from a hostile or otherwise unreachable area, it’s our duty to bring them home. As members of Air Force Special Warfare, Pararescue (PJ) specialists rescue and medically treat downed military personnel all over the world. These highly trained experts take part in every aspect of the mission and are skilled parachutists, scuba divers, and rock climbers, and they are even arctic-trained in order to access any environment to save a life when they’re called to do so.”
Two pararescue-men were recently presented with the Bronze Star with Valor for their dangerous escapades in Afghanistan in 2019. The two heroes are currently stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
The award was received by Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki of the 48th Rescue Squadron, and presented by Maj. Gen. Barry Cornish, commander of the 12th Air Force.
Commanding Officer Col. Peter White said of the two, “Master Sgt. Adam and Staff Sgt. Ben’s selfless lifesaving actions while under enemy fire are a testament of their personal courage, not uncommon in the rich history of the [563rd Rescue Group] and greater Air Force combat rescue community.”
In the official Air Force release, Fagan revealed how his team was moving in on a Taliban compound to destroy an explosive device manufacturer when they were taken by surprise in an ambush.
An explosive device was set off that severely wounding an Afghan commando who was working with them. He needed immediate medical assistance, but they were still under heavy fire from Taliban fighters who were heavily fortified.
“Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety,” Fagan sprung into action. Exposing himself to heavy fire, like Rambo on steroids, he attacked the Taliban’s fortified position with cover fire, providing enough of a distraction for his team to move the wounded Afghan commando to safety.
Fagan then called for a Medivac and once again exposed himself to flying lead as he moved the injured man to a helicopter landing zone. “Previous training like the Combat Team Leader Course and our spin up at Razor’s Edge with Red Team helped because I knew what I was capable of,” Fagan said. “I knew what I was physically able to do, I knew I could treat that guy under fire in the dark, and training with other rotary-wing platforms gave me the confidence to call in a clear nine-line [combat medical evacuation] quickly.”
Brudnicki, deployed as part of the same unit as Fagan, had been conducting counter-insurgent operations with a team of Afghan commandos and a twelve-man Green Beret team.
Under the cover of darkness, the group was closing in on an Afghan village known to be a stronghold for the Taliban. As they reached the skirts of the village they became aware of being detected and realized the Taliban were loading up for a fight.
The fighting was intense and at close range. At one point Brudnicki used personal weapons as he fought the Taliban within five-feet of himself. Glancing across a courtyard, Brudnicki noticed a civilian who had been wounded in the crossfire.
Risking his own life, and with no cover, he jolted across the courtyard to where the victim was lying and began immediate medical treatment. A statement from his citation reads, “with complete disregard for his own safety, and braving effective enemy fire from an adjacent compound.”
Once the civilian was in stable condition, one of the Afghan commandos went down. Brudnicki raced backed across the courtyard while being fired upon to rescue his comrade. Brudnicki’s actions were responsible for the deaths of seven Taliban fighters and their commander.
So, the different branches might rag on one another, but don’t dare let anyone else do it. Collectively, they’re a team of great American heroes who willingly lay their lives down for one another.