By Buddy Blouin
Earning awards during your military career is often the result of fulfilling your duty, suffering some sort of sacrifice, or going above and beyond ordinary service. They can be given for extraordinary performance while under extreme duress and can help individuals and units further their military careers. But not all awards are equally desirable. For example, the Broken Wing Award. Of course, I guess if you qualify, it sure does beat the alternative, but to even be considered for the plaque, you’re going to have to survive a situation that's generally avoided at all costs. Learn more about the Army Broken Wing Award, how to qualify, and some notable facts about its history.

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What is the Broken Wing Award?

The Broken Wing Award, established in March 1968, has recognized numerous air crewmembers and pilots for their efforts in preventing or reducing the severity of aircraft accidents. It’s an award acknowledging those who have dealt with mechanical malfunctions or environmental hazards during flights and come out of it relatively unscathed. Broken Wing Award recipients receive a plaque, certificate, and lapel pin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZVJ6Kphhmo Some accounts for qualifying for the Broke Wing Award in the Army can even involve taking on fire from enemy action. Although being presented with the US Army Broken Wing Award is considered a prestigious recognition, it is not a circumstance that most really desire to face. This is because in order to receive the award, you’re going to have to deal with landing an aircraft that isn’t fully operational. In many cases, not only is your life at risk, but the lives of your fellow military members, and possibly others are put at risk as well. Though the Broken Wing Award is for the U.S. Army, there is a recipient that was not a Soldier, but rather, a Sailor. Navy Aviator Ms. Barbara Gordon earned the Broken Wing Award after successfully landing a helicopter that was falling 12,000 feet per minute after an Army training exercise had gone wrong.

An Award No One Wishes to Earn

There probably isn’t a pilot alive that's looking to earn a Broken Wing Award nomination. The circumstances that can help you qualify for the plaque are deadly and no award proving your skill is worth the risk to face almost certain tragedy. This includes insane scenarios such as crashing an aircraft off of a cliff, dealing with power failure while in the air, engine failure, and more. While any of these scenarios might make for a great scene in a movie, in real life, there are no second takes, no do-overs, no CGI, or safety features. Safer skies are always welcomed over dramatic in-flight moments.

Suggested Read: The Navy Cross Honors the Valor of Sailors

Making sure that the U.S. Army is operating at the highest level takes the intricate organization of plenty of moving parts. This is true of making sure its aircraft are ready to fly, as well. Everyone from the crew maintaining and repairing the aircraft to those piloting them and everyone in between have an important role to play when it comes to safety. Because it’s more than just about making sure objectives are completed. You may be able to survive even a hefty car accident. But walking away without a scratch after freefalling tens of thousands of feet is a little less likely. It’s improbable and virtually impossible. But therein lies the reason for the Broken Wing Award. It takes an immense amount of skill to fly and land aircraft under normal conditions, much less with all of the added duress qualifying for this particular award can bring. You may not wish to find yourself in the situation to win the award, but getting yourself out of it means that you absolutely deserve it.

What Isn’t Considered an Emergency Worthy of the Broken Wing Award

Not everything constitutes an emergency worthy of the designation. The Army Aviation Broken Wing Award is a DA-level unit safety award, but some events won’t qualify you, including:
  • The event is self-induced.
  • The event actually occurs during a simulated emergency and no assistance is required for a successful landing.
  • The emergency is the result of non-compliance with published regulations or procedures.
  • The emergency was fabricated or didn’t actually exist.
  • According to the panel, the emergency was caused by a lack of discipline or aviator misjudgment.
  • The aircraft had no unfavorable circumstances to prevent a safe landing when in flight.
In the best-case scenario, you’ll never be put into the position to win the Broken Wing Award, but if you are, rely on your training, and let’s all hope you have an extra plaque to hang up in a place of honor when it's all over.

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