An Airman with the 55th Rescue Squadron recently received the Aviator Valor Award for his actions while deployed overseas.
The award, which is sponsored by the American Legionâ€™s Aviatorsâ€™ Post #743, is presented to a rated Air Force officer for an act of valor or courage performed during aerial flight.
Capt. Jeffrey Donaldson, 55th RQS Helicopter pilot, was deployed on the day of May 26, 2011. During that day, he received an immediate alert launch mission to rescue a ground patrol that had struck multiple improvised explosive devices. The patrol was unable to move due to additional devices that were in the area.
Upon arriving at the site, Captain Donaldson provided over watch by scanning for additional threats. As he scanned, flight lead went in to begin the rescue and recovery of the personnel. The combination of altitude, temperature and winds created a dangerous situation for the rescue attempt. Because of this, flight lead nearly crashed into the ground following the initial extraction.
After witnessing flight leads near crash, Captain Donaldson performed a lower extraction of the remaining soldier and pararescueman. He did this over an area known to have additional explosive devices.
Because of the amount of time taken to rescue the soldiers, Donaldsonâ€™s aircraft was left with barely enough fuel to reach Kandahar. He managed his aircraft power in order to conserve fuel. He landed at the helicopter pad with just enough fuel to taxi clear of the pad before shutting down.
His actions led to the rescue of three International Security Assistance Force and two U.S. Army soldiers.
Donaldsonâ€™s military awards include the Air Medal with 20 oak leaf clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Combat Action Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal.