December 6, 2013, Westhampton Beach, New York: The 103rd Rescue Squadron hosted a ceremony to commemorate the awarding of Bronze Stars with “V” device to six Air Force Pararescuemen for an extraordinary rescue mission under fire in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan last year. The Air National Guardsmen of the 103rd, made famous by their portrayal in the book and film, The Perfect Storm, were recognized by Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement he released describing the harrowing rescue, which can be read below. I have to give a special HooYah to my old pipeline buddy and former Army Ranger Anthony Yusup, still “Living by the Motto.” Awesome job, guys- BK

From Governor Cuomo’s statement:

On Dec. 10, 2012, the six 103rd Rescue Squadron Airmen were the Guardian Angel team assigned to man two HH-60 Pavehawk rescue helicopters flown by members of the 55th Rescue Squadron, an Active Air Force unit. A platoon of about 25 Soldiers had been ambushed and four Soldiers, including one of the Americans who later died, were very badly injured.

The unit was still under Taliban fire as the two helicopters approached the scene. One of the helicopters moved into the area to put the three-man team of Yusup, Dougherty, and Petersen on the ground first.

As the helicopter moved in to off-load the three Airmen it came under machine gun fire which continued as the men moved to linkup with the American and Afghan infantrymen who were sheltering behind a mud wall. Two rocket propelled grenades hit the ground five meters away from the Air Guardsmen as they began to conduct triage on the wounded Soldiers.

We’re all mad, you know.

Yusup, the leader of that three-man element, elected to remain in the open while exposed to enemy fire so that he could control the casualty collection point and direct timely casualty treatment.

Dougherty and Peterson ignored the enemy fire and began immediate treatment to save the lives of the injured men. When rocket propelled grenades hit nearby they covered the wounded with their own bodies.

Meanwhile, the lead helicopter Pedro 61 landed to off-load the other three Guardsmen: Maloney, the Combat Rescue Officer; Blom, the team noncommissioned officer in charge; and Zimmer. All three men ran across open ground despite the enemy fire to help in treating and moving the casualties.

Zimmer treated three patients with gunshot and shrapnel wounds and also stabilized a gravely wounded American Soldier who was missing his legs and an arm. Blom took charge of the casualty collection and treatment process while Maloney avoided an enemy rocket propelled grenade and called in support from the HH-60 Pavehawk helicopters and a pair of Army Kiowa Warrior OH-58 helicopter gunships. He accurately directed the 50 caliber machinegun fire and rocket fire on the enemy.

When the helicopter machinegun and rocket fire suppressed the enemy, Blom passed along the plans for extraction and got the team ready to move. Blom distributed his extra ammunition to the ground troops while he and Maloney both took their places in the firing line to suppress the enemy while the other four Air Guardsmen helped the infantrymen move the wounded to the waiting HH-60 helicopter.

Zimmer noted that one of the litter teams was having trouble moving over the rough terrain and ran back to help them, risking his own life to go into the open once more.

All four wounded Soldiers were evacuated back to the combat surgical hospital at Kandahar Airfield. Unfortunately the triple amputee – Staff Sgt. Wesley R. Williams, 25, of New Carlisle, Ohio, died upon arriving there.


Captain Ronnie S. Maloney, age 43, is assigned as a Team Commander in the New York Air National Guard’s 103rd Rescue Squadron. He is a full-time member of the 106th Rescue Wing.

He served previously as an enlisted Soldier in the Army and an officer in the Army National Guard. While a member of the Army National Guard he deployed to Iraq in 2004.

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In March of 2008, he transferred from the Army National Guard to the 103rd Rescue Squadron to become a Combat Rescue Officer. While at Pararescue School he was recognized with the Lt. Col. Don Flickinger Award for outstanding leadership.

Senior Master Sergeant Erik S. Blom, age 37, is assigned to the 103rd Rescue Squadron as a Guardian Angel Team Leader. He joined the Army in 1994 and graduated from both Airborne and Ranger school before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 2000. He has served in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant James J. Dougherty, age 29, is assigned to the 103rd Rescue Squadron as a Guardian Angel Element Leader. Dougherty has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Christopher Petersen, age 28, is currently a Pararescue Journeyman assigned to the 103rd Rescue Squadron as a full-time Guard member. While attending Pararescue School he was honored with the Charles D. King Award for top academic performer, the Purple Heart Association Award for top medic, and the prestigious Jason D. Cunningham Award. Petersen has over 85 combat missions spanning combat deployments to Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

Technical Sergeant Anthony D. Yusup, age 31, is assigned to the 103rd Rescue Squadron as a Guardian Angel Recovery Team Leader. He joined the Army after graduating in 2000. While in the Army he graduated Army Basic Training, Infantry School, Airborne School, Ranger Indoctrination Program, and Ranger School.

Yusup deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 as an Airborne Ranger assigned to 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 2003 attaining the rank of Specialist.

After leaving the Army in the fall of 2003, Sergeant Yusup immediately joined the New York Air National Guard to become a pararescueman. He distinguished himself as the Honor Graduate while attending the Pararescue Indoctrination Course in 2004. He then completed the Army Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course, Air Force Survival School, Military Freefall School, Paramedic School, and the Pararescue Apprentice Course in 2005.

Staff Sergeant Matthew F. Zimmer, age 31, is assigned to the 103rd Rescue Squadron as a Guardian Angel Pararescue Team Member. He joined the Air Force in 2001 and previously served as a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialist at Fairchild AFB from 2002 until 2007. Zimmer joined the New York Air National Guard in 2009 and graduated from the Pararescue Apprentice Course in April of 2011. He was recently recognized as the NCO of the Quarter for the 4th Quarter in the 106th Rescue Wing.