Hometown Heroes: Fort Carson Army sergeant recognized for rescuing survivors from flaming plane crash

March 8, 2017 Updated: March 14, 2017 at 11:43 pm
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Fort Carson 1st Sgt. Lance Anderson is no hero. Just ask him.

He makes it seem like running through flaming wreckage to save two plane crash survivors is an everyday occurrence.

"I did what any soldier would do," Anderson said.

But, whether he likes it or not, Anderson's actions on May 18 in Afghanistan have earned him the Pikes Peak Red Cross Hometown Heroes 2017 military award.

Lt. Rebecca Saldecke nominated Anderson for the honor.

"It seems kind of crazy," she said of the sergeant's seeming immunity from fear.

Anderson was assigned to an American outpost in Afghanistan's Helmand Province during a deployment last year when he spotted a column of smoke coming from a nearby airfield. The sergeant climbed on top of a barracks to get a better view and spotted towering flames.

Most people would stay away from the explosive wreckage of a downed transport plane. Anderson hopped in his pickup and raced toward the disaster.

"I happened to be in the right place at the right time," he said.

Anderson was racing toward the crash of a Silk Way Airlines An-12, which had lost power during take-off. The four-engine Russian transport had nine people aboard and as much as 5,000 gallons of fuel.

"Upon arriving at the wreckage, 1st Sgt. Anderson effectively took control of the crash site," a letter nominating him for the Red Cross honor reads.

Anderson spotted two people who had been thrown from the downed plane.

Along with other soldiers, Anderson pulled the crash survivors away from the flames and loaded them on his truck.

He raced them to his battalion's aid station where they were treated for broken bones, burns and lacerations.

Without quick assistance the pair would have died. Seven other crew members on the An-12 perished.

Anderson said his helping rescue survivors was nothing to write home about.

"I just wanted to see if there was anything I could do," he said.

Lt. Saldecke said that attitude is typical for Anderson, who is the top enlisted soldier for a company of troops in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

"He's always looking to help out," she said.

Anderson's form of help is a bit different from that offered by his civilian counterparts. During combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Anderson has helped his way to three Bronze Star Medals and five Army Commendation Medals.

As far as dealing with flames, Anderson said that wasn't a concern.

"Fortunately I don't have any hair, so I wasn't worried about losing much," he said.

Anderson does admit, though, that he later thought about the fire and contemplated why he ran toward it when others would have run the other direction.

"Honestly, it was a reaction," he said. "Judging by the smoke and fire I knew there would be casualties."

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

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