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December 5, 2005The National Aeronautic Association presented the 2004 Mackay Trophy to 13 members of the 347th Rescue Wing’s Jolly 11 and Jolly 12 flights. The two HH-60G Pave Hawk crews flew an April 16, 2004, mission called “Sky King 61,” in which they rescued a five-person crew of an Army CH-47 brought down by a sandstorm in Iraq.

Jolly 11 members (current rank):

Capt. John B. Creel (aircraft commander)
Maj. Joseph Galletti (pilot)
SSgt. Vincent J. Eckert (pararescue jumper)
SSgt. John Griffin (PJ)
SSgt. Patrick Ledbetter
TSgt. Thomas Ringheimer   

Jolly 12 members (current rank):

Capt. Rob Wrinkle (aircraft commander)
Capt. Greg C. Rockwood (pilot)
TSgt. Michael Preston
MSgt. Paul Silver
SSgt. Michael Rubio (PJ)
SSgt. Matthew Leigh
SSgt. Edward Ha (now out of the Air Force)

Jolly 11’s Capt. Bryan Creel and Jolly 12’s Capt. Rob Wrinkle led their crews through a blinding sandstorm, quickly realizing their forward-looking radar and Night Vision Goggles were basically useless. They had no communication with survivors, but tactical assets on the ground provided indications of their location, said Creel. He said he got a visual sighting of the crash about two miles out, but within 10 seconds his helicopter had flown right over it.

“I thought we had much better visibility than we did,” he added. Then, he spotted the crew on the ground and said that he knew normal rescue altitudes wouldn’t work. Both crews had to go in below the dust storm—skimming the ground at below 50 feet. Then things got really tough.

Wrinkle was the first to hear the sound of his helicopter’s missile warning alarm go off. “It does raise the hair on the back of your neck when it goes off,” he recalled. In all during the rescue mission, the USAF aircrews evaded six surface-to-air missiles and rocket propelled grenade attacks.

Wrinkle said that an RPG sailed past the helicopter, then another as the helicopter was deploying a cocktail of chaff and countermeasures. Breaking to the right and heading north, Wrinkle heard calls from his crew about more missiles inbound.

As Jolly 12 was warding off missiles, Jolly 11’s crew found an open field to start rattling off some .50 caliber machine gun fire to help disperse any other enemies on the ground that might be lining up to take shots at the helicopters.

Meanwhile the USAF pararescue jumpers secured the area near the soldiers and got them loaded for the flight to Balad Air Base.