C over S tory
The Soldier’s Medal awarded to Airman for heroism
By Lisa R. Rhodes
On May 3, 2010 Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Doty was the first to rush to the scene
of a crashed helicopter in Northeastern
Afghanistan and helped to rescue its three
For his bravery and heroism, Doty was
awarded The Soldier’s Medal in a ceremony
Friday at the Defense Information School.
The Soldier’s Medal is an individual
decoration of the Army awarded to any
member of the U.S. Armed Forces or of a
friendly foreign nation who, while serving
in any capacity with the U.S. Army, distinguishes himself or herself by a heroic act not
involving conflict with an enemy.
Doty is a master instructor in the Visual
Communications Department at DINFOS
and teaches the basic still photography
course. At the time of the incident, he was
a combat photographer.
In his remarks, DINFOS Commandant
Col. Jeremy Martin called the ceremony a
“most auspicious occasion.”
“It’s not every day that an Airman
receives a Soldier’s Medal on an Army base
by a Navy captain,” Martin said. “So this is
a really big deal.”
Doty was nominated for the award by
Navy Capt. Raymond J. Benedict, who
saw the crash. At the time, Benedict was
commanding officer of the provincial reconstruction team at the Forward Operating
Base, Kala Gush, in the Nuristan province
Benedict, who is now the commanding
officer for the Center for Security Forces in
Little Creek, Va., was the ceremony’s guest
“We’re here to witness a long overdue
award to Sergeant Doty,” he said.
It took almost four years. The office of
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski began working late last summer to help expedite the
During the ceremony, Benedict recalled
the crash of the helicopter, which landed
on its side. It was later determined that the
aircraft crashed due to mechanical failure.
The rotorhead, with broken rotor blades
that had scattered, was still turning and
caused the aircraft to shake. The running
engines caused fuel to pool on the ground.
To make matters worse, the helicopter
was carrying ammunition and high-explosive mortars rounds, which were strewn on
There was no firefighting team at the
“But that didn’t stop the rescue party,”
SOUNDOFF! February 27, 2014
photo by noah scialom
Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Doty, a master instructor at the Defense Information School, laughs before being awarded The Soldier’s
Medal on Friday at the school. Among the speakers was DINFOS Commandant Col. Jeremy Martin (left).
Within 35 seconds of the crash, Doty ran
to the scene.
“Doty led the rescue effort. He was the
first person to the helo,” Benedict said. “He
kicked in the window and climbed into the
According to the award citation, Doty
helped pull the first two crewmen out of the
wreckage and then tried to shut the helicopter down while other service members pulled
out the last crewman.
Doty reached several controls but couldn’t
turn off the engines or the rotorhead. He
then climbed completely inside the wreckage to reach the throttles and fuel controls
located on the helicopter’s ceiling.
Soon after, 1st. Lt. Joseph Wingard, who
had followed Doty to the scene, told him
that all the crew had been rescued and that it
wasn’t safe to try to shut down the aircraft.
Doty exited the helicopter, then grabbed
his camera to document the crash.
Benedict said it took the team of service
members less than three minutes to rescue
“Without any training, guidance or direction, they responded magnificently that
day,” he said.
They responded with “complete disregard for their own safety and performed at
great personal risk. ... They did not hesitate
a second to risk their own lives to rescue
those three crew members,” Benedict said.
A short video clip of the crash was played
at the ceremony.
Afterward, Doty’s father, retired Air
Force Lt. Col. Timothy Doty, pinned The
Soldier’s Medal on his son’s uniform.
“This is almost embarrassing to stand
here as the sole individual for an action
that was completed by a team,” the sergeant
said in his remarks. “It’s an upbringing that
I’ve had since I was a kid — to serve others
before I serve myself.
“It’s a trait that the Air Force instilled in
me. Really, what happened was instinctive.”
Doty’s wife, Thalia, was an Air Force
staff sergeant on the same deployment.
She witnessed the crash and her husband’s
“I’m very proud of him,” she said after
the ceremony. “It’s a great accomplishment.”
The couple and their young daughter are
relocating in March to Laughlin Air Force
Base in Del Rio, Texas. He will serve as the
noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
“The military is in our blood,” said Doty,
whose two brothers also have served in the
armed forces. “From Day 1, [we learned] it
was not about us, it was about everybody
else. We love our service and we love our