Kadena Rescue Airman Awarded DFC

SSgt. Zach Hoeh, a pararescueman with the 31st Rescue Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for his “heroism” retrieving a wounded soldier from a mine-laden ambush site in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2011. On May 26, 2011, Hoeh was sent on a “harrowing rescue mission into the Shorbak District, Kandahar Province, where a squad of United States Army Pathfinders had been decimated by multiple improvised explosive device attacks,” reads his DFC citation. At the time, Hoeh was serving with the 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, Det. 1. Guardian Angels in the lead HH-60 successfully rescued two patients before the aircraft lost power due to wind conditions, causing the helicopter to rapidly decend and “narrowly escape crashing to the desert floor.” Hoeh “immediately volunteered” to recover the remaining casualty. Surrounded by mines and explosives, he was hoisted down to the ambush site, secured the patient, and signaled for extraction in less than 15 seconds, according to the citation. Once onboard, Hoeh helped to evaluate and treat the solider as the flight returned to Kandahar Airfield. He was awarded the DFC on Aug. 1 at Kadena.