Staff Sgt. Greggory Swarz wasn’t close enough to see the Greek F-16 crash at Los Llanos Air Base in Spain, Jan. 26, 2015, but as soon as he heard the explosion, he hurried to the scene to see how he could help.
"It's human nature, there's people suffering, you've got to do as much as you can," Swarz, an electrical systems specialist with the 492nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, told Agence France-Presse.
Immediately after the F-16 crashed into other parked aircraft during a NATO training exercise, a massive explosion and fireball killed the two Greek pilots and nine French personnel, injuring 20 more nearby. Swarz moved closer to the inferno, looking for someone to help and exposing himself to a terrible sight.
"I saw some stuff that shouldn't really be talked about,” he told AFP. “Some pretty horrific things."
But then he saw something he had hoped to see: three French airmen alive in the fire who needed help. Swarz ran into the flames to retrieve them one by one, willfully burning his hands as he patted out the flames engulfing the clothes of the first victim he rescued, according to the Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing. He then pulled another victim to safety, whose wife later sent Swarz regular updates of her husband’s recovery in the hospital throughout the winter.
But Swarz stumbled on his way to reach the third man still trapped in the fire. Two other airmen answered his call for help, assisting him to drag the last victim out of harm’s way. That victim had lost a hand. Staying calm and rational throughout the ordeal, Swarz saved his life by using his belt as a tourniquet to stem the blood loss.
"It was horrible. I couldn't breathe because of the heat and the smoke," Swarz told AFP.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian presented Swarz with the Legion’ d’Honneur medal, France’s highest military award, on June 15 during the International Paris Air Show.
The defence minister also awarded four other U.S. airmen with France’s National Medal of Defense for helping other French servicemembers.
One of those airmen, Master Sgt. Jonathan McNeely, took note of Swarz’s heroics during the chaotic aftermath of the crash. "As I got closer, I could see Staff Sgt. Swarz,” he told Air Force Times. “He was already in the flames, dragging people out. Other people were assisting him already, picking people up. All around [was] wreckage and debris and there were little — I don't know how better to describe it — little fireballs, like little objects on fire all around them."
“Honestly, I was thinking that there was a good chance that I might pass away as well,” Swarz told the 48th Fighter Wing. “I was just trying to get as many people out before that might happen.”
All five airmen, along with a sixth, also received Crosses of Aeronautical Merit on June 18 from the Spanish government.
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.
A photo shared by Hoda Muthana on her now-closed @ZumarulJannaTwitter account. (Twitter/ZumarulJannah)
The State Department announced Wednesday that notorious ISIS bride Hoda Muthana, a U.S.-born woman who left Alabama to join ISIS but began begging to return to the U.S. after recently deserting the terror group, is not a U.S. citizen and will not be allowed to return home.
A top Senate Republican and fierce ally of President Donald Trump reportedly exploded at Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently about the U.S. military's plans to withdraw all troops from Syria by the end of April.
"That's the dumbest f******g idea I've ever heard," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly replied when Shanahan confirmed the Trump administration still plans to complete the Syria withdrawal by April 30.
Later, Graham told Shanahan, "I am now your adversary, not your friend."