WESTHAMPTON BEACH - Six members of the New York Air National Guard have been honored with the Bronze Star for heroic actions in Afghanistan last year.
The six special operators of the 106th Rescue Wing’s 103rd Rescue Squadron stepped off a rescue helicopter and into gunfire in Kandahar to rescue four soldiers critically wounded by an improvised explosive device.
The group was led by Capt. Ronnie Maloney, of Middle Island.
"As soon as we got off the [helicopters], we just had to run for cover,” he says. “It was extremely heavy enemy fire coming from all directions. We had friendly army unit laying suppressive fire so we could get to our wounded partners.”
Maloney, Tech. Sgt. Tony Yusup, Senior Master Sgt. Eric Blom, of Hampton Bays, and Staff Sgt. Matthew Zimmer, of Westhampton, ran across an open field while Taliban fighters opened fire with machine guns and AK-47s. The four men then began treating three of the wounded.
As that chaotic scene played out, Staff Sgt. James Dougherty, of Rocky Point, and Senior Airman Chris Petersen, of Commack, moved a soldier who lost three limbs. Dougherty says a rocket-propelled grenade landed a few feet from the injured soldier, so they shield the patient with their bodies.
“We train for every scenario we've had and this is one that happened to have played out,” says Dougherty.