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Nebraska National Guardsmen receive national honor for harrowing flood rescue

Nebraska National Guardsmen (National Guard/WikiCommons)

A Nebraska National Guard helicopter crew has received the 2019 DUSTOFF Rescue of the Year award for their recovery of seven firefighters from the floodwaters of the Elkhorn River last year.

The crew — comprised of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Josh Schaaf, pilot in command; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nathan Dooley, pilot; Staff Sgt. Lawrence Lind, medic; and Sgt. Aaron Winberg, crew chief — also received the Nebraska National Guard Commendation Medals with “V” device for Valor created by Gov. Pete Ricketts on June 29. The governor established the new award for distinguishing specific acts of bravery.

On March 14, 2019, the crew navigated 50 mph winds and downed power lines to remove all 7 members of a group of firefighters after their boats capsized in frigid floodwaters near Arlington on the Elkhorn River. The crew was nearly forced to leave some of the firefighters due to lack of fuel, but stayed to retrieve them all and returned safely. The firefighters were treated for hypothermia at a local hospital.

“I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish,” Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, Nebraska adjutant general, said in a news release. “To be here to help our neighbors; to help the folks that we live and work with every day in this state is a humbling thing.”

The award is given by the DUSTOFF Executive Council, a board of former members of armed services air rescue units. DUSTOFF is an abbreviation used by the military to denote air rescue missions.

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“This year, the complexity, risk and the absolute professionalism of this crew set them above the rest,” said Col. (Ret.) Daniel Gower, executive director of the DUSTOFF Association.

The award was to be given at the annual DUSTOFF reunion in Georgia, but the event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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© 2020 Lincoln Journal Star