Tech Sgt. Ken O’Brien from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena Air Force Base was recognized for his essential role during the 2018 Thai cave rescue. He was the farthest American inside the cave, and also led the effort to retrieve a Thai Navy SEAL who ran out of air while underwater in the cave. “I was never the only person there. I try to remind people I had someone right next to me. I’m the representative of all those people,” commented O’Brien. He was among 12 airmen who have been named Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2019. As the lead medic in the rescue, he would receive and assess each child as they were coming out of the cave to determine if they were strong enough to continue the journey.
The Crossroads of Special Operations