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62nd AW pilot excels in spite of disability

Amputee earns DOD award for his performance on job

62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Published: 12:13PM November 29th, 2012
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Andy Dunaway

1st Lt. Ryan McGuire runs the 1,500-meter run and earns a gold medal at the 2012 Warrior Games held at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Captain Ryan McGuire, 4th Airlift Squadron pilot and McChord Field member, was recently notified of his selection as a recipient of the Department of Defense’s Outstanding Employee and Service Members with a Disability award.

McGuire lost the lower portion of his right leg in a boating accident on Lake Amistad, Texas, in 2009 while attending pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base. He would continue on with his training and would become the first Air Force amputee to earn a pilot rating.

“This award has kind of been the culmination of my efforts and hard work over the past three years since my accident,” said McGuire. “The Air Force has given me such great opportunities to excel and I am honored and humbled to be recognized for this.

“The Air Force’s policy a few years ago was to not let service members with an amputation fly,” he added. “I was the first to complete pilot training with an amputation, but I was only successful in that because of the few pilots who had amputations later in their careers after completing pilot training had already paved the way for me when they were reinstated.”

Air Force history is full of first time accomplishments, like Esther Blake the “first woman in the Air Force,” Sergeant Maynard Smith the “first Medal of Honor awarded to an enlisted man,” and Chief Master Sgt. Paul Airey the “first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.” McGuire does not consider himself as one of those historic members, even though he is.

“The level of my accomplishments is paled in comparison to the amazing men and women I have read about and worked with in the Air Force,” said McGuire. “Those men and women really inspired me to work hard during my rehabilitation and I owe some of my success to them.

“I am an example of the amazing support system that the military provides. I was surrounded by ‘yes men’ from day one of my accident. I was never told I couldn’t do something; it was always ‘yes you can achieve that and here’s how.’

“From my physical therapist to my family, friends and now my fellow squadron mates in the 4th AS, the positive support I get every day is what drives me through the good times and the bad. I hope other Airmen will recognize how important that is and hopefully they can continue to provide that for others.”

McGuire talked about how his family and friends were proud of his nomination for this award.

“My family and especially my parents are ecstatic that I won the award. They have been an incredible source of support for me since my accident and I would not have made it through the dark days in the hospital without them. They are accompanying me to accept the award and I am really excited.”

“Captain McGuire is an exceptional officer and human being,” said Lt. Col. Thomas O’Connell, 4th AS squadron commander. “He has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, including the initial decision by the Air Force to medically retire him after the loss of his leg. He appealed that decision, and won, and has broken numerous barriers since then, such as the first amputee to complete pilot training, C-17 training, water survival and combat survival.

“He is now a fully qualified, combat ready C-17 pilot and has already successfully completed his first combat deployment. He is an inspirational person who doesn’t want, nor require any special treatment; he is simply driven to be the best officer and pilot he can be.”

Echoed by his commander’s comments, McGuire never felt like he was deserving of this DOD award and was in shock when his commander notified him of it as he was walking out the door for a deployment.

“The award went through the 62nd Airlift Wing selection process, then to Air Mobility Command then to the AF level,” said McGuire. “I honestly didn’t think I would make it past the wing because I know there are so many outstanding candidates in the Air Force. It is an honor and very exciting to have made it this far.”

McGuire will attend the 32nd Annual DOD Disability Awards Ceremony in Bethesda, Md., Tuesday, where he will be recognized and will receive his award for Outstanding Employees and Service Members with a Disability.