Sailor's bravery honored
Navy honors wife of GCTC student for heroism
Somewhere off the coast of Cambodia last month, a U.S. Navy helicopter deck crew prepared for a night landing when something went terribly wrong.
In the moments that followed, a young sailor from Tecumseh had her courage and skill tested on the deck of the USS Kidd guided missile destroyer.
Seaman apprentice Amanda Hill-Howell along with other members of the helo deck crew got the cable from the flight deck ready to hook up to the recovery and assist cable dropped from the helicopter. Tension from the RA cable is supposed to help the helicopter pilot keep his craft stable and aligned with the landing area as the ship rolls on the waves.
That night, the helicopter dropped the RA cable to the helo deck crew waiting to catch it with a grounding stick. The helo deck crew quickly discovered that the metal hook on the helicopter cable had shattered.
“The cable was swinging in the air all crazy,” Hill-Howell said. “Another crewman told me to run.”
As she ran for safety, Hill-Howell looked back and saw her shipmate struggling with the cable wrapped around his neck. The helicopter pilot hovering overhead was unaware of the situation and was about to abort the landing and fly clear of the ship.
Without thinking of her own safety, Hill-Howell raced back to her shipmate and unwrapped the cable from his neck before the helicopter ascended.
“I had to put my own life in harm’s way that night,” she said.
USS Kidd Captain Jennifer Ellinger immediately awarded Hill-Howell the Navy Achievement Medal. Later, Rear Admiral John R. Haley presented a coin medallion to Hill-Howell honoring her actions.
Gordon Cooper Technology Center Heat and Air student Sonny Howell is extremely proud of his wife, Amanda. Her success in the Navy inspired Sonny to enroll in Jerry Pickering’s Heat and Air Conditioning and Refrigeration class at GCTC so he could also build experience for a successful career.
“She has a career and I saw that I needed a good career, too, so we can build a good future life together,” he said.
Amanda and Sonny both grew up in Tecumseh and have known each other since they were both children. Amanda graduated from Tecumseh High School in 2010 and Sonny graduated from Eufaula High School in 2008.
They were married earlier this year knowing that Amanda’s Navy career would keep them apart during her deployment.
While they are apart, Sonny is working on his heat and air apprenticeship and training. His career goal is to become a journeyman and go on to a successful career in the field. Sonny and Amanda are looking forward to seeing each other early next year when she returns to San Diego, Calif. on shore leave.