Katrina relief

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Thirty-two Air Force Reservists from the 920th Rescue Wing were awarded the Air Medal for their outstanding performance during Hurricane Katrina rescue operations at a ceremony held in the base theater here today. The Air Medal is awarded to servicemembers who have distinguished themselves by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight. Awards recognize single acts of merit, heroism or meritorious service. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Paul Flipse) "We train to be ready at a moment's notice," said Master Sgt. Carlos Gonzalez, medal recipient and flight engineer with the 301st Rescue Squadron. "Being able to help was its own reward. It's what we live for," he said. Within 34 hours of Hurricane Katrina's landfall, crews from the 920th RQW deployed to the Gulf Coast region and were the first Air Force responders on the scene. Once in place, the unit's rescue professionals sustained 21 days of around-the-clock operations involving 200 wing personnel. The 920th RQW was credited with saving 1,043 lives in the aftermath of the storm. In one day alone, September 1, 920th crewmembers rescued 475 people. Notable past recipients of the Air Medal include aerial legends Henry "Hap" Arnold, Buzz Aldrin, Jimmy Doolittle and Chuck Yeager. While the awardees may not consider themselves aerial legends, they are truly heroes, according to wing commander, Col. Steven Kirkpatrick. "The men and women of the 920th are search and rescue's finest," he said. "This medal acknowledges that. And today, so do we."

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