Seven New York Army National Guard Soldiers Honored for Response to February Plane Crash at Gabreski Airport
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced today that four New York Army National Guard Soldiers who saved the pilot of a plane that crash on February 26 at Francis S. Gabreski Airport have been awarded New York State Medal of Valor, the state's highest military award for heroism. Additionally, three other Soldiers, who were part of the flight crew that day received the New York State Conspicuous Service Medal for their actions during the incident.
"These brave New Yorkers went above and beyond the call of duty and embody the very best of the New York National Guard," Governor Cuomo said. "I commend the entire crew for their quick actions and I am proud to see these exemplary servicemen and women receive this very deserving honor."
The New York State Medal for Valor is awarded to members of the New York National Guard who display valor, heroism, courage or gallantry either in a military or civilian capacity. The New York State Conspicuous Service Medal is awarded for those who distinguish themselves by exceptionally meritorious service in a capacity of great responsibility.
The seven Soldiers were flying to Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach when the pilots were notified that a plane which had been performing practice landings at the civilian airfield could not be seen and was not responding to radio calls. The flight crew immediately began a search and discovered the downed private aircraft in a nearby wooded area.
After landing their helicopter approximately 200 feet away from the downed aircraft, which was already engulfed in flames, four members of the crew approached the burning aircraft and were able rescue one of the three individuals aboard the plane. Unfortunately, efforts to rescue the remaining two passengers were unsuccessful.
Adjutant General of New York, Major General Anthony German, said, "The quick actions of this aircrew reflect the best traditions of New York’s Citizen Soldiers. Their selfless and heroic efforts saved a life and we are proud to recognize their efforts."
The four crew members receiving the Medal of Valor for their rescue efforts are:
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ronald Ramirez of the Bronx is a mission planner for the battalion and has served in the New York Army National Guard since 2008. He is a sales representative for Liberty Mutual Insurance.
- Warrant Officer Matthew Pacholk of Greenport is a UH-60 pilot. He joined the New York Army National Guard in 2011 and deployed to Kuwait in 2012/2013. He is a contact representative with the Internal Revenue Service.
- Warrant Officer Christopher Hansen of Goshen is a UH-60 pilot and joined the New York Army National Guard in 2009. He deployed to Kuwait in 2013 and Saudi Arabia in 2014. He works for the New York State Department of Transportation as a highway maintenance worker.
- Sgt. Yaanique Scott of Staten Island is a UH-60 crew chief and has served in the New York Army National Guard since 2006. He deployed to Iraq in 2008 and 2009 and is a New York City firefighter.
The crew members receiving the Conspicuous Service Medal are:
- Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joseph McCarthy of Orangeburg served as the Pilot in Command. He is the battalion’s Aviation Safety Officer who has served in the New York Army National Guard since 2008. He deployed to Kuwait in 2013 and 2014 and is a New York City firefighter.
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Meghan Polis of East Patchogue was the mission co-pilot. She is a UH-60 pilot and has served in the New York Army National Guard since 2011. She is vice president of municipal bonds for Drexel Hamilton LLC.
- Spc. Arlene Noschese of St. James is a UH-60 air crew member. She joined the New York Army National Guard in 2013 and is currently planning to study law at St. Joseph’s College.
National Transportation Safety Board Lead Investigator Dan Boggs said, "If it wasn't for their quick response, and that really heroic action in a burning airplane, we would have three fatalities instead of two."
The crew members are all Soldiers in the Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment, based at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Ronkonkoma. The crash remains under investigation.
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