Chief Warrant Officer Patrick Benson (DOD)
About two years ago, when most of America was signing up for fantasy football leagues and digging out the rakes, Chief Warrant Officer Benson was flying a Kiowa helicopter in Afghanistan, protecting MEDEVAC operations.
His job was to prevent insurgents from firing on Blackhawk helos while they were most vulnerable to enemy action – namely, while they hovered 75 feet off the ground as medical personnel tended to wounded troops below. On September 8, 2009, while flying protection for an extraction of two wounded Soldiers, Benson’s own aircraft became the target.
The Kiowa was hit by enemy fire, and Benson suffered two gunshot wounds to the leg. His helicopter lurched and began to spin out of control. His copilot was unconscious. Despite his injuries he was able to navigate to safety and land. He later received a Purple Heart and the Army American Legion Valor Medal. According to him, it wasn’t the first time he had been shot at, but it was the first time he had been hit.
In a later interview he said, “Every time you cross the wire, you need to be ready. Protecting such an exposed target, we know we’re in danger. But, if the medics are coming into that environment and doing everything they can to take our wounded Soldiers back to safety, there’s nothing else I can do but protect them.”
Chief Warrant Officer Patrick Benson – one of the guardian angels for MEDEVAC flights – is our hero of the week.