[Vision2020] Gunner Takes Bullet to Helmet in Rescue

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Fri Sep 3 14:11:29 PDT 2010

Courtesy of the Army Times.




Gunner takes bullet to helmet in rescue


FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Spc. Patricia Fowler says the Taliban got a lucky shot
off, but she was glad to take the bullet.


Fowler, a crew chief and door gunner on a Black Hawk medevac helicopter in
southern Afghanistan, earned the Purple Heart following that incident in May
in which she was fractions of an inch from a much more serious injury,
probably death.


"I was just doing my job, and they happened to get a lucky shot off," she
said in a phone interview from Afghanistan with The Leaf-Chronicle.


Fowler is part of Task Force Shadow and B Company, 5th Battalion, 101st
Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.
In May, she was on a helicopter that was in the role of "medical chase,"
providing air support to another helicopter sent to pick up wounded Marines.


"I feel worse for those guys than I do for us," she said of her fellow
aviators, who set down in the midst of Taliban gunfire to rescue the wounded


Fowler's helicopter was circling the rescue site at about 300 feet when
gunfire started pinging off the helicopter. They began to climb, and Fowler
described a sensation of being hit in the back of the head and scratches on
her neck.


What she would later learn is now a remarkable story of luck and bravery.


A bullet from the gun of an enemy fighter had bounced off the helicopter,
into her helmet and back out, effectively navigating around her head thanks
to a bracket in the helmet.


"I had no idea at that time I had been shot," she said.


Her fellow crew members could easily see what was a gaping hole in her
helmet caused by the ricocheting bullet.


"[A fellow crew member] poked the other crew chief, and I was like 'What's
going on,' " she said.


She took off her helmet and saw the hole, and "a good chunk of Styrofoam"
missing. Fowler had no idea what had happened, having never lost
communication from the radio device mounted in the helmet.


"Amazingly, the helmet still worked," she said.


Fowler's helicopter made it to a base where she could be seen by doctors.
She had severe pain in her shoulder, which turned out to be shrapnel
embedded in her arm from the pinging bullets.


"I thought, 'Cool,' " she joked.


She admits she had a small breakdown, realizing the narrow miss she faced.


"If I'd have been sitting a half an inch further back, it'd have gone
through my neck," she said.


And even though Fowler admits she missed certain injury or death by mere
fractions of an inch, she said, "it justifies to me that I was doing my


"We took fire away from them," she said of her fellow aviators and Marines,
who were in the heat of battle below.


Fowler and her commanding officer, Capt. Nick Horn, laughed while discussing
the event and camaraderie in the unit, a sign that morale is high.


"Sometimes I guess these guys are really amazing, but I have my few friends
that keep me grounded," she said.


She also shrugged off the notion of being a sort of pioneer for women in the


"I'm a soldier first," she said. "I'm not the first female [to be a door
gunner], I'm not the last. I just work."






Spc. Patricia Fowler, right, receives the Purple Heart on Aug. 5 at Kandahar
Airfield, Afghanistan. Fowler, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief, was
a crew member of a chase helicopter on a medevac mission May 6 when the
aircraft came under enemy fire while flying over Helmand province. Five
rounds impacted the aircraft, and one round ricocheted off the window frame
striking her helmet. The bullet rattled around inside Fowler's helmet, then
exited without wounding her.




Seeya round town, Moscow.


Tom Hansen

Moscow, Idaho



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