Native Bonacker and East Hampton High School graduate Corporal Loy Yetman was named Soldier of the Month last month by the U.S. Army Alaska Aviation Task Force, for his work as a flight engineer in Afghanistan.
Cpl. Yetman’s work, as part of the 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, includes repairing Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters, transporting soldiers and cargo, and preparing both staff and supplies. That’s part of the reason he is being recognized, said Captain Patrick Sawicki, deputy public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Alaska-North in a phone interview. But Cpl. Yetman’s drive to go the extra mile, he added, is also a big factor.
“Every soldier has a specific job or military occupation,” Cpt. Sawicki said. “But they also have sub-tasks that aren’t related to their job—making sure buildings are clean, getting other soldiers supplies they need in a timely fashion, making sure helicopters are fueled up. For the month of May, he was able to do all of those things and really took the initiative. Essentially, he’s making life easier for other soldiers and adding to the overall effectiveness to accomplish missions for that unit,” he said.
The recognition, said Cpt. Sawicki, includes a profile in the unit’s newsletter as a way to boost morale among soldiers, and to give them credit where they deserve it.
But Cpl. Yetman said he’s only “doing my job.”
“I have no idea why I was recognized,” he laughed in a Skype interview from Afghanistan on Sunday afternoon. “I’d like to think I’m really good at my job, but I can’t think of anything specific I did to deserve it.”
Cpl. Yetman joined the Army in 2010 after working with his father landscaping in East Hampton. “I really wanted to do something different,” he said. “Plus, the military runs in my family. My older brother, Kevin, was in the Army.” Cpl. Yetman as three other brothers; Troy, Jason, and Corey; and his parents, Kevin and Faith, still live in East Hampton.
This is Cpl. Yetman’s second tour in Afghanistan, and he said he likely will re-enlist.
Cpl. Yetman and his unit are stationed in Kandahar, the second-largest city in Afghanistan, where they not only provide transportation and maintenance of U.S. equipment but also help support the local government in Afghanistan and its people. Most recently, the unit has been flying ballot boxes between small towns so residents can vote, as well as transporting the votes to the leaders of each region.
“We’re creating a voting system and being able to give them the ability to vote and elect leaders,” Cpl. Yetman said. “We’re also helping their economy in a way, because some of what we do requires the military to hire local people, so we’re providing them with jobs and a source of income.”
Prior to this deployment, which started in early March, Cpl. Yetman was stationed in Alaska, where he participated in High-Altitude Rescue Training at Mount McKinley. “It’s great training for us, and we’re supporting the local national park on the mountain,” he said. “We’re bringing climbers equipment, supplies, cargo, anything they need. We start a low camp and fly up to high camp, which is about 14,000 feet up. It’s really the only place you can do any kind of high-altitude training.” Cpl. Yetman added that it was something he had pushed for early on.
“I knew I wanted to be part of certain training,” he said. “So I’d bug my squad leaders, and told them I wanted to be part of it, and they knew I was trying to fight my way into being involved, so they put me on it,” he said of the high-altitude team.
Cpl. Yetman is scheduled to be deployed through the end of 2014 before heading back to Alaska to spend time with his wife, Chelsey, and 5-month-old daughter, Emma. There, he looks forward to fishing, hunting and camping.