CSAF helps honor rescue community

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

More than 400 members of the rescue community gathered to commemorate the 50th, and final, Jolly Green Association reunion in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, May 2-4.

The three-day event brought past and present ‘Jolly Greens’ together to celebrate their heritage, reminisce about past missions and to present the JGA’s final Rescue Mission of the Year award to crews from the 41st Rescue Squadron and 48th RQS.

“What an honor to be in a room of giants,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “I stand here tonight as a testament to (combat search and rescue Airmen) courage, dedication … being one more satisfied customer who needed a ride home.

“There’s no place that Dawn (Goldfein) and I would rather be tonight than celebrating with you on your final Jolly Green gathering,” Goldfein added. “You’ve put your blood, sweat and passion into decades of serving others and truly embody the motto ‘That Others May Live.’”

The motto of this tight-knit community was prevalent in the stories shared by the key speakers of the night.

“You have to buy into it … it has to be part of your soul,” said Master Sgt. Jeffrey Waldrup 41st RQS operations superintendent. “You’re willing to give everything that you’ve got so somebody else can go home to see their family because if you don’t, they’re not going to have any chance to get home.”

The 41st RQS from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, and the 48th RQS from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, were awarded for their bravery during a rescue mission June 8, 2018. While assigned to the 435th Air Expeditionary Wing, at Camp Lemonnier, Republic of Djibouti, Africa, as a personnel recovery task force, the Airmen were alerted to respond to troops in contact with Al-Shabaab militants. They provided casualty evacuation and emergency close air support to friendly forces.
Overcoming multiple aircraft malfunctions and tactical limitations, the team recovered four critically injured U.S. special operators and two critically injured partner nation personnel. They fired 1,400 rounds of ammunition resulting in eight enemies killed and four wounded in action. The team's ability to swiftly assess a shrapnel injury to one patient's face saved his eyesight.

Despite the unfavorable conditions, the Airmen pressed on with the mission.

“My gun didn’t really work. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to defend my aircraft very well. We were out of self-protection flares and our radios were broken - but there were six guys on the ground that deserved to go home to their families and that’s what we’re there for,” Waldrup said.

“Having the CSAF there on the 20th anniversary of his recovery and the 50th of the JGA was just epic,” Waldrup said. “It was icing on the cake.”

Goldfein presented the 41st and 48th RQS with the Rescue Mission of the Year award. It’s the only non-Air Force rescue award recognized by the Air Force. During the banquet, Goldfein recounted details of his own recovery, when his F-16 Fighting Falcon was shot down over Serbia May 2, 1992.

“As you know, I’m one of those pilots that had an odd number of takeoffs and landings,” Goldfein said with a smile. “When I brilliantly intercepted an enemy missile with my aircraft, I found myself in every combat pilot’s nightmare situation. You’re all alone in enemy territory miles inside of Serbia … and my life depended on a team willing to risk everything to come get me out. They did what they’re trained to do.”

“They geared up, they raced out to the helos, aircrew spun ‘em up, lifted off, ingress into enemy territory … unafraid. ‘That Others May Live.’ And our nation was not going to sleep that night until they brought me home.”

“It was humbling to sit in a room full of heroes and warriors,” Waldrup said. “There were Vietnam guys who went through things much worse than what we do today and they accomplished the same thing. They were willing to hang it out on the line so that someone else could come home. Those men were heroes, without a doubt.”

In addition to the pride that filled the room, gratitude was also abundant while Dawn Goldfein spoke about her husband’s recovery from her perspective.

“I’ll never forget the first time I saw the motto of the rescue community,” Dawn Goldfein said. “It was at the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron; it’s painted on the wall as you walk in … ‘That Others May Live’. I (could) hardly wrap my brain around that.”

“Your spirited history embodied in the motto has a far deeper meaning to me,” Dawn Goldfein explained. “That others may live … that a best friend may live … that a husband may live … that a father may live … that a grandfather may live. As just one spouse who has benefited greatly from your courage and professionalism; from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

Though the JGA will no longer be running the reunions, the community has vowed that some kind of event will continue in its place and the Air Rescue Association will take over the Rescue Mission of the Year award. They plan to continue to gather, reminisce and pay homage to the heroes of their heritage.

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2018 Rescue Mission of the Year award.

Jolly 41- 41st Rescue Squadron

Capt. Garret Wilson

Capt. Oliver Neumann

Master Sgt. Jeffrey Waldrup

Tech. Sgt. Anthony Dyer

48th Rescue Squadron (while assigned to the 23rd Wing as a geographically separated unit)

Capt. Shayne Boyd

Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Cole

Staff Sgt. Justin Wood

Jolly 42 - 41st Rescue Squadron

Capt. John Richmond

Capt. Jesse Reynolds

Tech. Sgt. David Stringer

Tech. Sgt. Brandon Middleton

48th Rescue Squadron (while assigned to the 23rd Wing as a geographically separated unit)

Staff Sgt. Luis Yuquilima

Senior Airman Austin Henson