Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark Smith, 33rd Rescue Squadron, receives the Air Force Commendation Medal last year from Brig. Gen. Matthew Molloy, 18th Wing commander, on Kadena Air Base, Japan. Smith was killed in a helicopter crash last week on Okinawa, Japan. (Airman 1st Class Justin Veazie / Air Force)
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The Air Force has identified an airman killed in a helicopter crash last week as Tech. Sgt. Mark A Smith.
Smith, of the 33rd Rescue Squadron, was killed when his HH-60G Pave Hawk crashed Aug. 5 in Okinawa, according to a news release from the 18th Wing. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Three other crew members from the helicopter were treated at U.S. Naval Hospital in Okinawa, the news release says.
“Smitty was a total professional and true warrior,” 33rd Rescue Squadron commander Lt. Col. Pedro Ortiz said in the news release. “He led by example and was wise beyond his young age of 30. In combat or out, I am proud to call him my brother.”
Smith joined the Air Force in July 2000 straight out of high school and went on to deploy to Afghanistan twice as a flight engineer with the 33rd Rescue Squadron, participating in several rescue missions.
“One that stands out is the rescue of a commando in the Kamdesh,” Ortiz said in the news release. “They were under fire by rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns. Smitty was rock solid with his hoist despite the imminent and close threats.”
A picture taken of the rescue by a nearby combat photographer has gone viral, the news release said. After coming home, Smith was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Smith is survived by his wife, Jessica, and their two daughters.
“Smitty was a mentor to all the young airmen and pilots; he was a father figure to those that didn’t have one,” Ortiz said in the news release. “He and his wife took care of those in need.”