Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 Aircrew of the Year

Photo provided by Ryan Mason - Airborne Productions, courtesy of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association. Pictured ALEA President Kurt Frisz, Pilot Sergeant Kenneth Burchell, Rescue Technician Sergeant David Tolson and Airbus Helicopters Law Enforcement Market Sales Manager Ed Van Winkle
 On Friday, July 18, 2014, United States Park Police Pilot Sergeant Kenneth Burchell and Rescue Technician Sergeant David Tolson received the Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) Captain ‘Gus’ Crawford Memorial Aircrew of the Year Award for 2014. Captain Gus Crawford, a law enforcement aviation pioneer, was the commanding officer of the New York Police Department (NYPD) Aviation Bureau at the time of its founding. The Captain ‘Gus’ Crawford Memorial Aircrew of the Year Award acknowledges a pilot and/or crewmember(s) whose flying efforts and proficiency characterize ALEA’s motto, “To Serve and Protect from the Air.”

For the nomination period of April 1, 2013 – March 31, 2014, the United States Park Police was nominated twice for the flying efforts during the Navy Yard shooting on September 16, 2013.

On September 16, 2013, a lone gunman entered Building 197 at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC, and began shooting personnel at the Navy Yard, creating an active shooter incident. As calls for help were received, multiple law enforcement agencies responded. The United States Park Police helicopter Eagle I, crewed by Pilot/Sergeant Kenneth Burchell and Rescue Technician/Sergeant David Tolson, was requested by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department to assist. The Navy Yard is located directly across the Anacostia River from their hangar, also known as “the Eagle’s Nest.” A request was made, by Sergeant Tolson, for additional aircraft due to the possibility of a mass casualty incident. Due to the proximity of the Washington Navy Yard to Washington/Reagan National Airport, Eagle I notified Washington Tower, who in turn diverted air traffic from the immediate area and designated Eagle I as “airboss,” for aircraft coordination in the Navy Yard area.

On this tragic day, the crew of Eagle I initially assisted with aerial reconnaissance and perimeter control, simultaneously becoming Air Traffic Control. The crew then switched roles for the deployment of SWAT personnel and reconfigured for the extraction of a critically injured female, which resulted in a medevac transport. The crew returned to deploy another SWAT officer and extract the final three survivors. In the final phase, they returned to reconnaissance and perimeter control. Air Operations terminated with a total of 5.5 hours flight time. All of these operations were conducted with an active shooter below them.

For these brave acts of resilience, the Airborne Law Enforcement Association proudly awarded Sergeant/Pilot Kenneth Burchell and Sergeant/Rescue Technician David Tolson the 2014 Captain “Gus” Crawford Memorial Air Crew of the Year Award. Officer/Rescue Technician Michael Abate was also presented an ALEA Presidential Citation for his roles in the incident.