The 920th Rescue Wing out of Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, was awarded the German Medal of Honor for Rescue and Distress for saving two German citizens off the coast of Florida last July, according to a news release.
The award was presented Friday during a special ceremony in Germany.
The medal is the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service’s highest recognition award for individuals, crews, or organizations that help rescue Germans, or to German crews that participate in difficult or challenging rescue missions.
Approximately 80 airmen and four aircraft from the 920th RQW aided in the rescue of two German citizens when their vessel caught fire July 7 last year about 500 nautical miles off Cape Canaveral.
The mission was successful, despite the language barrier: Only one of the victims spoke broken English, but was badly burned. Master Sgt. Isabelle Kleirgraham, the 920th RQW Equal Opportunity noncommissioned officer in charge, joined the team, due to her fluency in German.
“The rescue was a culmination of skill and teamwork that involved many throughout the 920th RQW, the Coast Guard, the AFRCC and the 45th Space Wing, who provided critical support to allow our aircraft to launch and recover,” said Col. Kurt Matthews, the 920th RQW commander, in a press release shortly after the July rescue.
Matthews, along with six unit representatives, accepted the award on behalf of the wing. This is the first time in 20 years that the medal has been awarded.