Answering the Call: Kadena airman lauded for rescue efforts, volunteering

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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Clifford Crawford, 31st Rescue Squadron pararescue element leader, sits in an HH-60 Pave Hawk on the flight line at Kadena Air Base on June 27. Photo by Senior Airman Stephen G. Eigel, U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Clifford Crawford, 31st Rescue Squadron pararescue element leader, sits in an HH-60 Pave Hawk on the flight line at Kadena Air Base on June 27. Photo by Senior Airman Stephen G. Eigel, U.S. Air Force

Answering the Call: Kadena airman lauded for rescue efforts, volunteering

by: Senior Airman Stephen G. Eigel, 18th Wing | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: July 05, 2016
KADENA AIR BASE – Staff Sgt. Clifford Crawford, 31st Rescue Squadron pararescue element leader, won the 2016 Army Times Publishing Company’s Air Force Service Member of the Year award. The award is presented to those who demonstrate a high level of professionalism, concern for fellow service members, and commitment to community service.
 
The award was established in 2001 by Army Times Publishing Company. The initial program highlighted exemplary achievement by a service member beyond the call of duty.
 
In the past 15 years, the annual Service Members of the Year Award has grown into a much anticipated event attended by congressional, military and community leaders.
 
Crawford was born in Skiatook, Oklahoma, May 28, 1992. He attended Skiatook High School and graduated as class vice president in May 2010. During his time in high school he wrestled, served as student body president, was a member of Tulsa Future Leaders of America and founded the Skiatook Junior Chamber of Commerce.
 
After graduation, he enlisted in the Air Force and following basic training, he reported to the Pararescue Indoctrination Course where, despite a 93% attrition rate, he completed the Pararescue Pipeline earning the coveted maroon beret in 2013.
 
The mission of a pararescueman is to rescue, recover and return American or Allied forces in times of danger or extreme duress.
 
In the middle of training exercises in the Philippines, when the first 7.8-magnitude quake struck near Nepal’s Ghorka district on April 25, 2015, Crawford was one the first Airmen who volunteered to go help.
 
“We flew through Nepal looking for people who needed help,” Crawford said. “We went from village to village finding people and determining which Nepalese needed the most help first and then getting them transported to a hospital in
Kathmandu for treatment.”
 
During his time there, he helped save the lives of more than 40 individuals. 
 
“I had patients from almost newborn, to the elderly,” Crawford said.
 
Another tragedy struck May 12, 2015, when a helicopter carrying six Marines, two Nepalese soldiers and five injured civilians crashed into a mountainside in Nepal. Crawford, three other pararescue jumpers, one combat rescue officer, and roughly 12 Nepalese rangers were sent to recover their bodies.
 
Twelve-thousand feet up the mountain hanging off the edge of a cliff, the aftershocks kept coming, causing landslides while they tried to stabilize the crash site and get the remains out of a ravine, as well as recover sensitive items from the crash site.
 
“We had to pull them out of the helicopter while also trying not to fall off the cliff,” Crawford said.
 
After successfully recovering the fallen he would later help guide the ramp ceremony to bring them home.
 
In his spare time, Crawford volunteers with the Kadena Special Olympics, helping to build facilities, and serving as an athlete buddy, assistant coach and cheerleader. He also volunteers at the naval hospital in Okinawa to help keep his medical skills sharp and ready to go at a moment’s notice.