As soon as Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Miller and his unit came on duty on Aug. 4, 2012, they got a call for help from coalition forces caught in an ambush. They had been in Afghanistan only about three weeks, and it was Miller’s first deployment as a pararescueman.
The call marked the start of a more than seven-hour, 300-mile air-rescue operation to save coalition forces who had come in contact with insurgents.
Miller and his team took off in two helicopters toward Bamiyan province, which had at one point been known for being relatively peaceful. Now, New Zealand troops had come under attack after they moved to assist local security forces in an encounter with “suspected insurgents” in the northwestern part of the province.
When Miller and his team landed, they helped the most critical patients get on board the choppers. Three people, suffering mainly from gunshot wounds, rode with Miller. He helped one patient by inserting a device to aid in breathing.
There were “a lot of patients with bad injuries for two people to try to treat on the back of a helicopter, but … we did what we could for them as best as we could,” Miller said.
After these patients were transported to a medical facility, Miller and his team came back to the area to pick up three more casualties, one in his helicopter.
New Zealand later reported that two of its soldiers died from the engagement and six were injured. Two local security force members were killed and 11 were injured.
Miller’s efforts would later earn him the Distinguished Flying Cross with “V” device for valor, awarded at RAF Lakenheath, England.
Miller’s award citation credits him for leaving the helicopter on the second run “despite the increased risk of enemy ambush.”
Miller, who is serving at Hurlburt Field, Fla., said the mission took a lot of effort from the rescuers.
“It was definitely one of the harder ones just in the sense of logistics and medical treatment and all of the moving parts that went into this mission,” Miller said. “It was definitely kind of one of the more extravagant ones.”