On Monday, Sept. 14, President Trump visited California to meet with Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials regarding the statewide fires. Following the meeting, the President held a Ceremony Recognizing the California Army National Guard in their harrowing efforts that rescued 242 adults and children from the devastating Creek Fire by Shaver Lake.
The President honored the National Guard at the CAL Fire Hanger in McClellan Park:
“Just over one week ago, these brave pilots and crew members of the California Army National Guard embarked on a harrowing mission. As the sun set on Sept. 5, they boarded two helicopters. Then, they flew into blazing flames, raging wind — and it was raging — and blinding smoke to rescue families who were trapped by the massive Creek Fire at the Mammoth Pool Campground.
While they were on the way to the campground, the crew received word from state and local officials and headquarters that it was far too dangerous to continue the mission. “Turn back.” But they decided to continue anyway, knowing they might not return. They knew that people were in danger — great danger.
As night set in, they could see almost nothing through the miles of dense smoke. Using their night goggles and their expert navigation skill, they reached the camp. They found the stranded families — many of whom were badly burned and injured — and they loaded them, as many as they could, onto the two helicopters. Then they made the perilous flight back to the base.
As soon as they unloaded the passengers, they again risked their lives and flew back into the blazing fire to rescue more victims. Their superior said, “You cannot do this. You cannot do it again.” They did it.
The smoke had become even more overpowering, yet they returned a third time. After 10 grueling hours, they completed their mission, having saved the lives of an astounding 242 people. We are proud of them. That’s an incredible story. And I spoke to some people that really didn’t want you to do it. They didn’t want you to go back on those flights.
To each of you: Your unyielding determination lifts our nation. You’re what makes our nation great. And we thank you very much—incredible job.
Over the last week, these devoted soldiers have continued to rescue more stranded individuals from danger. In fact, less than 48 hours after their rescue at Mammoth Pool, they flew to another treacherous mission. On the first two attempts, they were forced to turn around, and they were advised to abort their mission. “You must abort the mission.” But they chose to try a third time, at great risk to their own lives. Through tremendous skill and incredible valor, they saved 50 people from absolute imminent danger.
Our nation is strong because of remarkable individuals like these service members. In the midst of our greatest trials and biggest challenges, America prevails because of the brave and selfless patriots who risk everything so that they may save lives of people, in many cases, that they don’t know. They have no idea who they are. It’s like law enforcement: They save the lives of people that, for the most part, they have no idea who they are, but they’re so determined to do it.
Today, our country honors their courage, and we are inspired by their example, and we thank God for the blessing and all of our blessings that you’re safe. Our nation has really benefited by your bravery.
And on behalf of our great nation, I thank you very much. As your President, I thank you very much. Great job.”
The Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded to Chief Warrant Officer 5, Joseph Rosamond, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Kipp Goding, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brady Hlebain, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Irvin Hernandez, Warrant Officer 1 Ge Xiong, Sergeant George Esquivel Jr., and Sergeant Cameron Powell of the California Army National Guard for distinguished acts of heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight on Sept. 5, 2020.
The brave actions and superior airmanship of these soldiers resulted in the successful rescue of 242 adults and children. Their actions are in keeping with the highest military traditions of selfless service, honor, and personal — personal courage, and reflects a great credit upon themselves, the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, the California Army National Guard, and the United States Army.