He has been saving lives since he was a teenager. Starting as a member of Washoe County's Hasty team, he now rescues injured soldiers from combat zones as a member of the Army National Guard. This week Chief Warrant Officer Jason Penrod was in Washington DC for a Medal of Honor presentation based on a mission in Afghanistan in 2009.
"It was questionable whether we were going to be able to land without taking fire ourselves," Jason Penrod calmly describes the images caught by his helmet camera as his Medevac crew enters a combat zone to help rescue soldiers injured in a 2009 ambush known as the Battle of Ganjgal. "Sgt. Westbrook was down on the next terrace. They were having a hard time getting him up on to the next terrace. Fortunately the aircraft was able to fit on the next terrace, and that terrace was just high enough to protect the aircraft from fire."
The camera captures an emotional moment, Captain Will Swenson sending his good friend, injured Sgt. First Class Kenneth Westbrook, off with pat and a kiss on his forehead. That gesture catching the attention of the nation. Swenson, this week recognized in Washington DC with a medal of honor.
Once again, Jason Penrod was there, reunited with Swenson. He says he is proud of the work they did evacuating the injured, but his heart breaks for the 4 marines, who died from the attack. "You realize, those are real bullets," he says, becoming emotional. " Those are real people who are trying to shoot down that helicopter and they're really trying to shoot these guys. But more importantly, these guys... these are real..... these are real human beings."
Welcomed home at Reno Tahoe International Airport Thursday morning, his family knows he won't be staying long. He's returning to the job that he loves. "These guys on the ground have to know that when they're putting their lives on the line, that when they try to make the ultimate sacrifice we're there to try to prevent them from following through on that."
Following the 2009 Medevac mission, Penrod was awarded the Air Medal of Valor.