Senior Airman Austin Henson & Technical Sergeant Benjamin Cole

Davis Monthan AFB

2018 Honorees

Deployed from Tucson, AZ to East Africa, Team Leader, Benjamin Cole, and Element Leader, Austin Henson, led the operations of a combat rescue team. Ben Cole led a team of 6 Pararescuemen supporting high-risk operations in Southern Somalia, along with Austin Henson as the primary medic on the team. U.S.

Military members were partnered with African forces to establish an outpost in al-Shabaab controlled territory when they came under attack. The team was in the air on helicopters within minutes of the attack and overhead within 20 minutes. There was a lot of confusion on the ground due to the ongoing fight, so Ben Cole elected to send in his helicopter to make sense of the injuries. Henson’s helicopter crew fought their way in without regard to their own safety.

The fighting was so aggressive that they had to make a few passes with both helicopters .50 caliber guns to suppress the enemy so they could land while the second helicopter continued to fire overhead.

Senior Airman, Austin Henson, and Technical Sergeant, Benjamin Cole, moved through gun and mortar fire and linked up with the ground team to get casualty reports and make decisions on who needed to come out first. Austin helped load patients and started treating the most critical one right away.

Once triaged, Ben loaded three other critical patients and they took off to cover additional patients and ensure everyone was brought to safety. The team treated the patients while the helicopter flew with aggressive combat maneuvers back to an American outpost where a team of doctors waited.

While turning over their patients to the doctors, word came that their team needed to fly back into the same firefight to retrieve further casualties. Without hesitation, they flew back into the fight, having to conduct increased gun-runs to get back into the landing zone as the fight raged on.

The teams extracted more American and African forces who were hurt in the ongoing fight and brought back under protection. Unfortunately, due to the extent of injuries sustained, one American service member was killed, but because of the leadership and heroic actions of Ben Cole and Austin Henson, four more Americans are alive today. Together, they truly live the rescue motto, “These Things I Do, So That Others May Live!”

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