Calif. National Guardsman awarded the Silver Star

June 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
For the first time, a California National Guardsman has been awarded the Silver Star for valor. It's the third highest military decoration in the US armed forces. On Sunday, he and his crew were honored for saving a platoon, in Afghanistan.

The ceremony brought the California Air National Guard crew back to the Pech River Valley in Afghanistan.

"This crew is really representative of the crews that were all over the country doing phenomenal things," said Calif. National Guard Staff Sgt. Emmett Spraktes.

Spraktes and the crew of the 168th General Support Aviation Battalion were returning from a mission, when they got an emergency call from an infantry platoon.

"As far as we knew there were still troops in contact which means they were still taking enemy fire," said Spraktes.

They were pinned down by heavy fire coming from steep cliffs above. The crew chose to fly their Black Hawk in, under fire, Spraktes was lowered to the ground and hoisted five wounded soldiers to safety one by one.

"The patient had a significant wound from a RPG blast, taking off a lot of the flesh of his upper arm. He had a lot of blood all over him," said Spraktes.

Two others were also badly wounded.

"He was still bleeding. I had to put a second turnakit on him and try to get a rapid set of vitals," said Spraktes.

During the dramatic rescue, the pilot and co-pilot spotted enemy positions and called in air support. For their bravery, Spraktes, from Dixon, was awarded the Silver Star for his valor. Chief Warrant Officers Brandon Erdman, Scott Saint Aubin from Napa and Staff Sgt. Thomas Gifford from Sacramento received the distinguished Flying Crosses.

When he's not serving Spraktes is a paramedic instructor for the California Highway Patrol.


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