Thirty-three Air Force Reserve airmen were honored last week for their role in the rescue of two German sailors stranded at sea last summer.

Master Sgt. William Posch, an Air Force Reserve pararescueman killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq in March, was one of the airmen to be awarded the 2017 Jolly Green Association Rescue Mission of the Year Award for their part in the July 7, 2017, rescue mission.

The Germans were stranded in the Atlantic Ocean, about 500 miles off Cape Canaveral in Florida, after their sailboat caught fire when the 920th Rescue Wing came to their aid, according to a May 3 release from the wing.

The Guardian Angel team ― consisting of combat rescue officers, pararescuemen, survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) specialists, and other support personnel with unique personnel recovery skills ― carried out more than 30 hours of total flying time with HH-60 Pave Hawks and HC-130N Kings.

The team conducted eight air refuelings, an open-ocean rescue insertion, and a “highly technical nighttime shipboard patient” exfiltration that saved the sailors’ lives.

An HH-60G Pave Hawk refuels from an HC-130P/N King en route to rescue two German citizens in distress at sea July 7-8. Approximately 80 wing airmen and four wing aircraft helped execute the mission. (Master Sgt. Mark Borosch/Air Force)
An HH-60G Pave Hawk refuels from an HC-130P/N King en route to rescue two German citizens in distress at sea July 7-8. Approximately 80 wing airmen and four wing aircraft helped execute the mission. (Master Sgt. Mark Borosch/Air Force)

The Coast Guard’s Seventh District in Miami called in the 920th ― the Air Force Reserve’s only combat search-and-rescue wing ― due to its specialized skills, including air refueling and extended-range airpower, the wing said.

“This was an extremely complex and unusual mission,” Col. Kurt Matthews, commander of the 920th, said in the release. “The lengths our Reserve citizen-airmen went through to save these men is incredible, and I am extremely proud of them.”

Matthews said the pair of HC-130s needed to transport the team and refuel its Pave Hawks were broken when they got the call, and the helicopter crews were on crew rest.

But within two hours, the maintainers had fixed and launched the first HC-130, carrying the airmen and their equipment. After another two hours, the helicopters were on their way, and the maintenance crew was working on fixing the second HC-130.

The rescuers parachuted into the ocean from the back of the HC-130, the release said, and their inflatable boat and medical equipment soon followed them. They reached the sailors and provided medical care ― the son, Karl Meer Jr., sustained second- and third-degree burns to much of his lower body ― and took them to a nearby freighter.

Ait Force Maj. Chris Ferrara, an HC-130P/N
Ait Force Maj. Chris Ferrara, an HC-130P/N "King" co-pilot with the 920th Rescue Wing out of Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, takes part in the rescue of two German citizens at sea July 7-8, 2017. (Master Sgt. Mark Borosch/Air Force)

The Pave Hawk teams arrived, hoisted the two sailors aboard, and took them to the Orlando Regional Medical Center, where they recovered for two weeks before returning to Germany.

Some of the rescuers traveled to Hamburg, Germany, in January to receive the German Medal of Honor on Ribbon for Rescue Missions at Sea in Gold on behalf of the entire 920th.

It was the fifth time the medal had been awarded since 1955, and the first time in 20 years. The Meers met some of their rescuers and thanked them at that ceremony.

“With my injuries and without water, I don’t think I would have lived another day,” Meer Jr. said at the ceremony in Germany.

The airmen who flew on the mission include:

  • Lt. Col. Steven Lawhun, 39th Rescue Squadron.
  • Lt. Col. John Lowe, 39th RQS.
  • Lt. Col. Wilfred Rodriguez, 39th RQS.
  • Lt. Col. Roderick Stout, 301st RQS
  • Lt. Col. Michael Stuker, 301st RQS.
  • Maj. Cody Atchison, 308th RQS.
  • Maj. Paul Carpenter, 301st RQS.
  • Maj. Christopher Ferrara, 39th RQS.
  • Maj. Jayson Goetz, 301st RQS.
  • Maj. Richard Moore, 39th RQS.
  • Maj. Richard Verica, 39th RQS.
  • Capt. Kenneth Creager, 39th RQS.
  • Capt. Daniel Morgese, 39th RQS.
  • Chief Master Sgt. Shane Smith, 920th Operations Group.
  • Chief Master Sgt. Randolph Wells, 301st RQS.
  • Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Lais, 308th RQS.
  • Senior Master Sgt. Frank Mora Matos, 301st RQS.
  • Master Sgt. Mark Borosch, Air Force Reserve Command.
  • Master Sgt. Louis Hause, 308th RQS.
  • Master Sgt. Isabelle Kliergraham, 920th Rescue Wing.
  • Master Sgt. Jason Kornhauser, 301st RQS.
  • Master Sgt. Robert Kurzen, 39th RQS.
  • Master Sgt. Paul Mollura, 39th RQS.
  • Master Sgt. Kenneth Pizer, 39th RQS.
  • Master Sgt. William Posch, 308th RQS.
  • Master Sgt. Mark Victor, 39th RQS.
  • Master Sgt. Darrell Williams, 308th RQS.
  • Tech. Sgt. Richard Boyd, 308th RQS.
  • Tech. Sgt. Patrick Englishby, 39th RQS.
  • Tech. Sgt. Eric Fowler, 301st RQS.
  • Tech. Sgt. James Reynolds, 39th RQS.
  • Staff Sgt. Christopher Moore, 308th RQS.
  • Staff Sgt. Lee Von Hack-Prestinary, 308th RQS.