PJ saves two Afghan girls during firefight, receives NCOA Vanguard Award


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice

7/16/2008 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- It's not uncommon for proud mothers to brag about their children.

Thirteen years ago in an Air Force recruiter's office, Tech. Sgt. Clinton Beck's mother was bragging about her son being an accomplished high school swimmer when a recruiter overheard her and recommended the new enlistee try out to be an Air Force pararescueman.

"The medical stuff interested me," said Sergeant Beck, a pararescueman with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. "But the jumping and diving really interested me."

The veteran swimmer took the recruiter's advice and volunteered for the pararescue indoctrination course and completed the pararescue training pipeline a year later.

Now, Sergeant Beck's mom, who was at first both apprehensive and excited about her son's chosen career, will have something else to brag about. Sergeant Beck has been named the Air Force's 2008 Vanguard Award recipient.

The award, sponsored by the Noncommissioned Officers Association, recognizes a noncommissioned officer who has performed a heroic act, on or off duty, which resulted in saving lives or preventing serious injury.

Sergeant Beck is receiving the award for his actions during an April 2007 firefight against enemy combatants in Afghanistan during which he saved the lives of two Afghan girls.
"It was an exciting mission, but not anything out of the norm," Sergeant Beck said.

That day started out as normal as they do in combat. He awoke with his team of elite special operators and began planning the day's mission.

As the team approached the target, it came under enemy fire. There were several Afghan women and children caught in the dangerous crossfire.

After consulting his team leader, Sergeant Beck sprinted across the battlefield to aid his first patient, a 14-year-old girl shot in the femur. He moved the girl to safety and treated her severe bleeding and splinted her leg.

The pararescueman then risked his life a second time, coming to the aid of a 4-year-old girl shot in the arm. After he controlled her bleeding, Sergeant Beck again exposed himself to enemy fire, carrying the child 50 meters to a casualty collection point.

Throughout the operation, Sergeant Beck remained focused on the mission at hand--treating the young victims.

"It's difficult, but the military does a good job of training you to think about it later," said Sergeant Beck, referring to the young age of his victims. "My mindset was getting them out of there safely and alive."

Sergeant Beck not only provided care to the wounded Afghan girls, but also treated an enemy combatant as well.

"We treat the enemy combatants just the same as we would an American soldier," the pararescueman said. "You never know if the person you're treating can provide information that may help on another mission."

After tending to the enemy soldier, Sergeant Beck returned to the girls. One of the girls began going into hypotensive shock; he immediately took action and reversed the girl's circulatory and respiratory collapse.

Following 45 minutes of gunfire, the team prepared to medevac the girls. He stayed with the patients until handing them off to a surgical team. According to his award nomination package, the surgeon who treated the girls credited Sergeant Beck's actions with "undoubtedly saving the lives of both girls."

In total, he provided about five hours of medical treatment to the wounded children during the seven-hour mission.

"In my previous job, I provided up to eight hours of care during civil rescues," Sergeant Beck said. "I had never provided care that long in combat."

Sergeant Beck credits the training he and other pararescuemen receive for enabling the successful mission.

"We try to do pretty realistic training, including getting used to having bombs going off around you and aggressors shooting back at you," he said. "It's chaotic, but my first priority is my team and myself."

Sergeant Beck's supervisor calls him a "highly skilled, seasoned and combat-proven NCO and pararescueman."

"Plain and simple, Sergeant Beck is a pipe hitter who exemplifies the warrior ethos," his supervisor said. "His decisive and dominant actions under extreme and violent combat conditions are absolutely deserving of this award."

Nevertheless, Sergeant Beck insists he's just one of many Air Force pararescueman capable of performing just as well under fire.

"I got recognized for the award, but I've got 25 guys on my team who are doing the same thing every day," he said. "The stuff we're doing is what PJs are trained to do--kill the bad guys and save the good guys."

Thirteen years into the job, Sergeant Beck is "kind of addicted to it."

"If you're an 18-year-old kid who's looking to be a part of something that's bigger than yourself, this is the job," he said. "The reason why we train and work so hard is not just for the country--it's for the guy to your left and right.

"You get to do some jumping and some diving; if at the end of the day you get to save some lives, that's the icing on the cake," the pararescueman said.

Sergeant Beck will accept his award at the NCOA Annual Awards Banquet in Las Vegas July 17. And, yes, his proud mother along with the rest of his family will be there to cheer him on.
Awesome story. I'm just glad they are still allowing PJ's to make saves over here instead of the in lieu of mission.
Great story and thanks for the post Rav!!

Well done by Sgt. Beck. Hope Mom is annoying all her friends bragging her son up because he deserves it:D