Spearfish parks superintendent returns from deployment, thanks city for support
SPEARFISH — As a token of his appreciation for the support received during his deployment with the South Dakota Army National Guard Company C, 1st Battalion, 189th Aviation Regiment, Chief Warrant Officer Tyler Ehnes, parks superintendent, presented the city of Spearfish with a flag flown on a combat medevac mission in a HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter in the vicinity of Baghdad, Iraq, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
“When a National Guard soldier deploys, many people think about the welfare of the soldier themselves or even the families. Fewer people think of the effects that it has on an employer,” he said during the city council meeting Monday during the presentation. “A deployed National Guard soldier leaves a big hole in an employer’s operation. I was gone from the city for over 15 months, and in that time, many people filled in the gaps, and for that, I am very appreciative. I want to thank the staff for covering my duties, and I also want to publicly thank mechanics Lee Alberts and Mike Barrie, who on their own time, went over to my house and fixed my home lawn mower for my wife. … I tried to fix it via webcam from 7,000 miles away – it didn’t work very well!”
He also thanked the city for its support during the deployment.
“I returned to my position intact as if I had never left,” Ehnes said. “I’ve been back for a couple days, and it was just like I’d never left …”
Ehnes has been the city parks, recreation, and forestry superintendent since March 2017. He served as the department’s foreman prior to that for two years, and previously worked as a parks tech for a number of years.
Ehnes, originally from Deadwood, joined the South Dakota National Guard in spring 2002, while in college at South Dakota State University, serving in a transportation company out of Brookings/Aberdeen. After completing basic training that summer and fall, he was deployed for 18 months. When he returned, he continued his studies graduating with a parks management degree in 2007.
He was later selected for flight school to learn to fly Black Hawk helicopters and has since been a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 189th Aviation Regiment, out of Rapid City.
Ehnes talked about the mission he was on during the deployment. As a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, Ehnes flies medevac – aerial medical evacuation – missions.
“Best mission in the Army, saving lives,” he said. “Our unit … performed medevac coverage with our 15 Black Hawk helicopters. There was 92 of us from the Rapid City, South Dakota, area. There was a platoon from Oregon and a platoon from Montana that met up with us, so out of the five platoons, we carried out the medevac mission in Iraq and Syria, over six different locations. We flew over 500 missions from those six different locations throughout Iraq and Syria. Of those 500 missions, 252 were live combat missions. We moved over 700 patients to the next higher level of care and worked with over 20 different coalition nations.
“I personally flew over 150 flight hours in the combat theater and had multiple urgent medevac, which means life, limb, or eyesight, so lives were saved, for sure,” Ehnes said. “I just want you to know that this was what you supported as an employer in my absence, so it wasn’t in vain. It was a very big deal. Thank you.”
He then presented the city council with a flag and certificate, which reads, “Let it be known that this American flag was flown on a combat medevac mission in a HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter in the vicinity of Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. This flag was flown in memory of the brave men and women who gave their lives in support of our freedom. C Co. 1-189th Task Force Liberty. Dedicated to the City of Spearfish in support of Operation Inherent Resolve 7th of January 2018.” The certificate is signed by Ehnes, pilot in command; Capt. Kristopher Schmautz, pilot; Sgt. Tom Nilsen, flight paramedic; and Sgt. Matt Walters, crew chief.
A round of applause followed the presentation, and the council members thanked Ehnes for the flag. Mayor Dana Boke was absent from the meeting.
“I just wanted to say as a staff member, I go, I went, I still go to Tyler a lot, and (you) don’t know what you’re missing for that long until it’s gone,” Police Chief Pat Rotert said. “I’m super glad to have him back.”
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