Saturday, April 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Travis airmen help save wounded service members’ lives

By
From page A3 | January 02, 2014 | 6 Comments

Capt. Clay Westberry

Capt. Clay Westberry

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — After spending two hours clearing customs at Entebbe, Uganda, and enduring a long delay in being refueled, 21st Airlift Squadron Capt. Brendan Hopkins was ready to get his C-17 off the ground Dec. 21 to bring two aircrews and about 30 passengers home in time for Christmas.

Just as he was preparing to taxi onto the airport’s runway, the radio call came through asking, “Are you airborne?”

Hopkins answered no and was told to hold position.

“Two minutes later, we were told why,” Hopkins said.

Three VC-22 Ospreys were inbound from the north, carrying three seriously wounded service members who had been shot up when the Ospreys tried to approach the Sudanese town of Bor to evacuate Americans. They had been greeted by gunfire from the ground.

One of the wounded had already gone into cardiac arrest while on the Osprey and would do so again while on the C-17, revived each time by the medics on board.

A fourth man, a pararescueman, was also wounded, but was so busy keeping the others alive to notice he had shrapnel in his back, Hopkins said.

“And he didn’t realize it until he got to the hospital,” he said.

Hopkins, 21st ALS pilot Capt. Clay Westberry and the C-17 aircrew were told to take on the wounded and medical personnel and get them to a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.

That meant completely reconfiguring the aircraft, removing pallets of cargo, putting up litter stanchions, reworking flight plans and getting the necessary clearances in as little time possible.

As the C-17 taxied in behind the arriving Ospreys, one pilot asked for as much room as possible because most of his hydraulics were shot out.

“Very few things get my adrenaline going – and this was one of them,” Hopkins said. “The urgency – everyone felt it. We all fell into the job that needed to be done.”

While Hopkins was up front getting the C-17 prepped for its new mission, Westberry was in back, where two pallets of cargo and 10 passengers had to be offloaded to make room.

“Everyone had the mindset to do whatever it took to get these people to where they needed to be,” Westberry said.

One of those who stood out was Senior Airman Cody Nunez, who kept calm in the intimidating face of an Army special forces captain who demanded that the pallets be dragged out of the aircraft to get his wounded men on faster. Doing it that way could have damaged the C-17, keeping on the ground.

When the forklift packed in the C-17  would have taken too long to get out and nearby airport forklift was without a key, Staff Sgt. Joseph Rivera-Rodriguez of the 571st Global Mobility Squadron grabbed the key from the packed-away forklift, sprinted across the field, fired up the airfield forklift and stepped on the gas to get it to the C-17 “with black smoke spewing from it,” Hopkins said.

Within 30 minutes, the C-17 was ready and the wounded were stabilized enough to get them back in the air.

The flight to Nairobi took 40 minutes, with ambulances – complete with police escort – waiting to take the wounded to the hospital. That left the aircrew to clean up the blood, syringes and used medical kits while the other passengers waited under the wings.

“The coordination behind the scenes was amazing,” Hopkins said of the efforts made to save the wounded service members.

Westberry and Hopkins said they not only managed to get their original passengers home in time for Christmas, but the two aircrews played an essential role in ensuring the three wounded service members would be alive to see another Christmas.

“It was the most fulfilling hours of my life,” Hopkins said.

Westberry noted that if they had gotten through customs on time and if the fuel was not late, “we would have been on our way out of Africa when this happened.”

“It was a miracle that we were taking off later,” Westberry said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or ithompson@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 6 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Cheryl costaJanuary 02, 2014 - 7:12 am

    God love them for their bravery and service. Why do we have to read about shoot outs with kids or idiots with guns gone wild when there are stories like this that can be printed? Perhaps if we put less attention on the negative we may possibly live in a less violent society.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MadelineJanuary 02, 2014 - 7:59 am

    Tear jerker Ian! What Heroes we have today. Travis we salute you! Many Blessings. ...M

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensJanuary 02, 2014 - 8:35 am

    The Air Force office weenie kingdom will deny them their earned Air Medals and just give them Commendation medals instead. Entebbe huh? I bet none of those crewmembers knew anything about the events of July 4th 1976, and Operation Thunderbolt. If it were up to me, Sudan and a lot of those horrible nations we are wasting time, money and lives on would be glass parking lots, courtesy of many B61 thermos---high yield.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Ian ThompsonJanuary 02, 2014 - 2:51 pm

    Actually, both Captains Westberry and Hopkins commented during the interview about the Israeli raid on Entebbe,saying that they could still see the bullet holes in the old terminal.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensJanuary 02, 2014 - 6:20 pm

    The university educated stick actuators are not the only people on the Clinton- mobile.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensJanuary 02, 2014 - 6:18 pm

    A coward is a comment poster who doesn't use his name when deriding someone else.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Transplant recipients talk about their best gifts

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Solano unemployment inches downward

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

 
 
Spering, Bertani spar over fighting crime

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 22 Comments | Gallery

 
Fairfield council candidates weigh in on crime

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 3 Comments | Gallery

Police release name of woman found dead in Fairfield canal

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
 
Five homes featured on Symphony Home Tour

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Congregation invites public to Easter music, message

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
 
Local woman helps spread Easter joy

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B12 | Gallery

Weather for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B13

 
.

US / World

California farmers to get more water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Teen sentenced in Oakland toddler’s killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

More Latino than white students admitted to UC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

 
Mom and son who died in San Francisco fire ID’d

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

3 alleged gang members convicted of murder

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

From Clinton to Obama, many parallels

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

PG&E to be arraigned in fatal pipeline blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Easter on 4/20, pot holy day; pastors reach out

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
NASA’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down as planned

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Atheist national conference aims at Mormon church

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 5 Comments

 
SpaceX making Easter delivery of station supplies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Sudden movement raises alarm in Wyoming slide area

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Some countries get Obama, but want his wife, too

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

Man who avoided prison is overwhelmed by support

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Teen suspended for asking Miss America to prom

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

White House updating online privacy policy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
In Egypt, a corruption watchdog hit by backlash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Military scales down, modifies Guam buildup plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Captain of sunken SKorean ferry arrested

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Avalanche sweeps down Everest, killing at least 12

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Diplomacy doesn’t move insurgents in Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
57-nation OSCE plays key Ukraine monitoring role

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Ukraine crisis: The turning points

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
.

Opinion

Cheers, jeers for the week of April 13-19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
Editorial Cartoons for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
Here we go again in Sacramento

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 9 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 19, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Seniors, it’s never too late to do something about your health

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

 
Horoscopes for April 19, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Prince reaches agreement with music label

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

‘The Boondocks’ back for final ‘offensive’ season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

 
A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

Stratocaster still a favorite at 60

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

 
.

Sports

Warriors and Clippers take dislike to playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Big innings lift Mustangs over Indians

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Ross, Padres beat Cain and Giants 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
A’s come out swinging to beat Astros 11-3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Warriors to start O’Neal for Bogut vs. Clippers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Hertl has impressive playoff debut for Sharks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Mets trade 1B Ike Davis to Pirates

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
TNT’s Sager to miss NBA playoffs due to leukemia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Nadal ousted by Ferrer in Monte Carlo quarters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
A’s lefty reliever Doolittle gets 5-year deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 1 Comment | Gallery

’40-and-up club’: Ageless Hopkins after more belts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jimenez shoots 65 to lead Greater Gwinnett field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Solano scores in ninth for 2-1 BVC baseball win over Yuba

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Choi leads rain-delayed RBC Heritage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

NBA’s Silver wants age limit change, no rush on others

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NBA playoffs looking more wide-open than expected

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Source: Grizzlies’ G Calathes suspended for 20 games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Avalanche sweeps down Everest, killing at least 12

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

Judge says American can’t end retiree benefits yet

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
Mazda recalls 109,000 older SUVs for rust problem

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

5 features an Amazon phone might offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
.

Home Seller 04/19/14

Summerwood features 8 new homes in Suisun

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2

Real estate transactions for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3

Average US 30-year mortgage rate falls to 4.27 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3