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Saturday, June 21, 2014 - 12:27am
Fort Bliss — An Apache helicopter pilot from Fort Bliss received a prestigious award Friday afternoon, for his heroic action during a recent deployment to Afghanistan.
CW2 William C. Bezold, III, was presented the Broken Wing - a highly regarded, yet rarely given award. It's an award reserved for aviators who demonstrate superior knowledge, skills, and judgement while reacting to an in-flight emergency.
It all happened on August 2, 2013 in the Wardak province near Forward Operating Base Sultan Kehyl .
"I turned down and looked at my instruments and I saw that my number one engine light was not producing any power," Bezold said.
After hearing a loud bang during a combat mission, Bezold's AH-64 Apache helicopter began turning on it's own (yawing) and he immediately realized his engine had failed at 12,000 feet altitude.
To make matters worse, it was only his second flight as a Pilot-in-Command. He and his co-pilot 1LT Terrence Strahan had to think fast.
Bezold said, "I recall looking over the other side of the road and seeing this dirt road and thought, 'It looks like a runway to me.'"
He was able to make an emergency - or precautionary - landing, but the story doesn't end there. They were forced to land in an area infested with the Taliban.
"I actioned the weapons system; as you know the Apache's 30mm weapon moves with the pilot's head, so anybody that may have been approaching the aircraft would have seen that," Bezold explained.
After the hard landing, Strahan then jumped out of the aircraft and protected it, pulling security with his M4 rifle as they waited for backup Soldiers and more air support to arrive.
"The training really kicked in and we were able to execute like we were trained," Strahan said.
During Friday's ceremony inside Sage Hall on Fort Bliss, Bezold thanked his wingman team, Air Mission Commander, CW4 Rob Valdez and his Copilot, CW3 Jordan May for their role in the mission. He said, "[May and Valdez] provided overhead security of the landing site, alerted our Task Force Operations Center of our situation, and within one hour, a Downed Aircraft Recovery Team had arrived."
The team had to work on the $25M Apache "outside the wire" and in the middle of an insurgent hotbed. Even so, they managed to replace the engine and get the helicopter back in flight within 48 hours.
"It's a very humbling experience. It's not something you want to have happen. I'm just glad to be home."
CW2 William C. Bezold, III